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STRANGE CHAPTER! 

IN THE 
HISTORY OF ART 



FORGERS, DKAUIRS, 
KXPRRTS 

STRANGE CHAPTERS IN THE 
HISTORY OF ART 

Who are the forgers and who are the 
experts? It is not always easy to say, so 
great is the skill and ingenuity employed 
by forgers when copying a work of art. 
The greatest art experts can be, and have 
been, taken in by a clever piece of forgery 
and though the forger's motives are 
questionable his skill deserves recog- 
nition. 

Here is a comprehensive study of the 
most notorious art forgeries in history: 
the artists who employed their talents in 
imitating the talents of others, the dealers 
who wittingly or unwittingly sold their 
wares, and the experts who exposed, or 
were taken in by, their duplicity. Calling 
upon his substantial professional know- 
ledge and his personal interest in the 
subject, Sepp S chillier has turned the 
investigation of art forgeries into a field 
of lively speculation having artistic, 
social, and psychological implications. 

Although art forgeries have been 
known since the time of classical Greece 
and Rome, the vast proliferation of the 
visual arts and an ever growing demand 
for things artistic since the i9th century, 
have led to an increasing number of in- 
genious swindles, frauds, and imitations. 
Scores of talented men have been induced 
to copy accepted masterpieces and pass 
their imitations off as the real thing. 

Often they are merely scoundrels moti- 
vated by nothing more that the desire to 
extract cash from the pockets of the 
gullible and the naive. But nearly as often, 
as Schuller conclusively demonstrates 
here, they are thwarted geniuses who feel 
compelled to prove their equality to the 
(continued on back flap) 



751 SjSf 60-182^5 

Scliuller 

Forgers, dealer s, experts 




FORGERS, DEALERS, EXPERTS 



FORGERS, DEALERS, 
EXPERTS 

Strange Chapters in The History of Art 



SEPP SCHULLER 

translated from the German by James Ckugh 



G. P. PUTNAM'S SONS 

NEW YORK 



1959 ky Fr<*ft% Ebrenwirtb Verlag KG Munchen 

first published in Germany under the title 
Falscher, Handler und Experten 

English translation 1960 by Arthur Barker Ltd 



All rights reserved. This book, or 
parts thereof^ must not be reproduced 
in any form without permission. 



Library of Congress Catalogue Card Number 
60-13452 



PRINTED IN GREAT BRITAIN BY 
ROBERT CUNNINGHAM AND SONS LTD, ALVA, SCOTLAND 



Contents 



Introduction xi 

1 Egypt, the Forgers' Paradise i 

2 The Cardiff Giant 4 

3 Fame comes to the village of Glozel 7 

4 The Venus of the Turnip Field 1 2 
j Counterfeits of Durer's works 14 

6 Works forged as by Griinewald, Holbein and Cranach 24 

7 The much admired Bust by Bastianini 26 

8 The Renowned Sarcophagus of Cerveteri 36 

9 The Tiara of Saitaphernes 38 

10 The Bust of Flora 50 

11 AlceoDossena 61 

12 Wacker's Van Goghs' 71 

1 3 Forgeries of French Paintings 80 

14 Art Forgeries under the Third Reich 90 
i j Han van Meegeren 9 j 

1 6 The Liibeck art forgery scandal 106 

17 Modern Masterpieces by a Museum Attendant 1 16 

1 8 Art Forgers at Naples 1 22 

1 9 The Vienna Madonna scandal 1 2 5 



CONTENTS 

20 Antique Furniture is not always old 133 

21 'Real' and 'Imitation' Carpets 137 

22 The Lure of Profit 140 

23 In the Shadows 145 

24 Fame versus X-Rays 166 

25 'Counterfeit Counterfeits' 178 

26 The Campaign against Fraud 182 

27 Forgery Detection as a Fashionable Complaint 186 

28 'Take up the Shield of Mistrust!' 190 
Index 193 



Illustrations 



between pages 

1 A Genuine Rubens or a Forgery? 16-17 

2 * Virgin and Child.* Oil painting in the style of Diirer and 

formerly ascribed to him 16-17 

3 Albrecht Diirer (1471-1528) self portrait. Limewood 

panel, Old Pinakothek, Munich 3*-33 

4 Albrecht Diirer, self portrait. Forgery by Wolfgang 

KiifFner (1799). Limewood panel, Diirer's house, 
Nuremberg 32-33 

5 'The Hare.* Oil painting after a drawing by Diirer, prob- 

ably by Hans Hoffman (d. 1591). Barberini Gallery, 
Rome 32-33 

6 Bust of Benivieni by Giovanni Bastianini (1864). Terra- 

cotta, Louvre, Paris 40-41 

7 * Virgin and Child.' Marble reHef by Desiderio di Settignano 

(1428-64). Mus6e des Beaux Arts, Lyons 40-41 

8 'Virgin and Child* by Giovanni Bastianini (1860). Wax, 

Victoria and Albert Museum, London 40-41 

9 'Virgin and Child* by Giovanni Bastianini. Marble, Victoria 

and Albert Museum, London 40-41 

10 The 'Venus of Brizet*, also known as the 'Venus of the 

Turnip Field*. Marble, lifesize 56-57 

11 The 'Shield of Scipio', fourth century AD, silver dish. 

Biblioth^que Nationale, Paris 56-57 

12 The Tiara of Saitaphernes by Israel Ruchomovsky (1896). 

Gold, Louvre, Paris 56-57 

13 'Rabbi/ A copy by Gerbrand van den Eeckhout (1621-74) 

after a painting by Rembrandt (1606-69), Suermondt 
Museum, Aachen 56-57 

14 'Flora*, painting in the style of Leonardo da Vinci (1452- 

1519) 64-65 

1 5 'Flora', probably by Richard Cockle Lucas (1846). Painted 

wax bust. Kaiser Friedrich Museum, Berlin 64-65 

vii 



ILLUSTRATIONS 

between pages 

1 6 Alceo Dossena, the Cremona mason, in his studio 64-65 

17 'Madonna.* Wood carving by Alceo Dossena (1925) 64-65 

1 8 'Virgin and Child.' Marble relief by Alceo Dossena (i 929), 

Victoria and Albert Museum, London 64-65 

19 Self portrait with pipe by Vincent van Gogh (1889) 80-81 

20 Forged self portrait of Vincent van Gogh 80-8 1 

21 'Gypsy Caravan.' Forged van Gogh. Copy of an original 

in the Louvre, Paris 80-81 

22 'Old Montmartre.' Oil painting by Claude Latour, Paris, 

in the style of Utrillo 80-8 1 

23 'Tahitian Women.' Forgery of a Gauguin by Fortunato 

of Naples 80-81 

24 Han van Meegeren painting 'Christ among the Scribes' in 

prison (1945) 88-89 

25 'Portrait of a Man.' Forgery of a Terborch by van Mee- 

geren (193 5-6) 88-89 

26 'Woman Drinking.' Forgery of a Frans Hals by van Mee- 

geren (1935-6) 88-89 

27 'Lady Making Music,' Forgery of a Vermeer by van Mee- 

geren (1935-6) 88-89 

28 'A Drinking Party.' Forgery of a Pieter de Hooch by van 

Meegeren (1937-8). Beuningen collection, Vierhouten 88-89 

29 'Christ and the Disciples at Emmaus.' Forgery of a Ver- 

meer by van Meegeren (1936-7). Boymans Museum, 
Rotterdam 88-89 

30 X-ray photograph of the forgery 88-89 

31 'The Last Supper.' Forgery of a Vermeer by van Mee- 

geren (1940-1). Van Beuningen collection, Vierhouten 88-89 

32 'Head of Christ/ Forgery of a Vermeer by van Meegeren 

(1940). Van Beuningen collection, Vierhouten 88-89 

3 3 'Jacob's Blessing.' Forgery of a Vermeer by van Meegeren 

(1941-2). W. van der Vorm collection, Rotterdam 88-89 

34 'The Washing of the Feet.' Detail of a forgery of a Vermeer 

by van Meegeren (1942-3). Property of the Dutch 
Government 88-89 

35 'Christ and the Woman Taken in Adultery." Forgery of a 

Vermeer by van Meegeren (1941-2), formerly in the 
collection of Hermann Goering 88-89 

36 Han van Meegeren in the Amsterdam court in 1947 88-89 

37 Lothar Malskat painted decorations for the 'Tre Kroner' 

Inn, Stockholm, in 1 9 5 8 1 2 o~ i 

38 'Virgin and Child.' Forgery by Lothar Malskat in the 

manner of the medieval master of Schleswig Cathedral 120-1 
viii 



ILLUSTRATIONS 

between pages 

39 Forgery of a medieval fresco by Lothar Malskat in Schles- 

wig Cathedral 120-1 

40 Choir of the Church of St Mary, Lxibeck, with forgeries by 

Lothar Malskat below the clerestory windows 120-1 

41 'Madonna/ Forgery by Lothar Malskat in the Church of 

St Mary, Lxibeck 120-1 

42 Nave of the Church of St Mary, Liibeck, after 'restoration* 

in 1952 120-1 

43 Figures of saints in the nave of the Church of St Mary, 

Liibeck. Forgeries by Lothar Malskat 120-1 

44 Indian' painting by Lothar Malskat in the 'Delhi Palace', 

Hamburg 120-1 

45 Malskat at an exhibition of his works 1 5 2-3 

46 Forged paintings by Lothar Malskat 152-3 

47 Water-colour by Emil Nolde (1867-1956) M 2 ~3 

48 Forgery by Jupp Jenniches of a water-colour by Emil 

Nolde 1 5 2-3 

49 'Virgin and Child.' Wood carving by Beppi Rifesser, St 

Ulrich, Southern Tyrol 152-3 

50 Rifesser at work in his studio at St Ulrich J 5 2 -3 

51 Genuine or forgery? Eight versions of the Mona Lisa 

make a puzzle for the art lover 152-3 

LINE DRAWINGS IN THE TEXT 

i Caricature from k Figaro (1903). Israel Ruchomovsky 

proving that he was the maker of the Tiara of Saitaphernes 45 

ii Detail of an amphora from Nikopol used as a model for 
the frieze of Scythian scenes on the forged Tiara of 
Saitaphernes 47 

Hi Amphora, silver, partly gilded, from NikopoL The model 

for parts of the Tiara of Saitaphernes 48 



IX 



Acknowledgments 



The photographs are reproduced by permission of the following: 
Bavarian State Collections, number 3; Deutscher Verlag Picture 
Service, 2; dpa-Bild, 16, 24, 44, and 46; Germanisches National 
Museum, Nuremberg, 4; Reinhold Lessman, i; Sepp Schuller, 5, 6, 

7, 8, 9, 10, II, 12, 13, 14, 15, 17, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 25, 27, 28, 29, 30, 

31, 32, 33, 40, 42, 43, 47, 48 and 58; Siiddeutscher Verlag Picture 
Library, 51; Ullstein Picture Library, 18, 36, 37, 38, 39, 41, 45, 49. 
"Line Drawings: *Le Figaro, i; Springer's History of Art, Vol. Alter turn 
(1915), ii andiii. 



Introduction 



THE PAINTER Maurice Vlaminck relates that one day, while he 
was in the shop of Vollard, the art dealer, in Paris, a respectable- 
looking man came in, with a picture under his arm, and asked 
Vollard what he thought of it. 

Vollard examined the work with interest. 'It's good/ he said. 
'I like it very much. It's very fine/ 'But do you think it's an 
original?* the man asked. 'Original?' Vollard exclaimed. 'My 
dear Sir, you can't expect me to guarantee that the painting is by 
this, that or the other artist, or that it's not a modern copy. It 
looks well over three hundred years old. But I couldn't possibly 
tell for certain.' He smiled enigmatically. 'Why not consult my 
colleague across the way? He's got a brass plate up, with "Art 
Expert" written on it.' 

This little episode is characteristic of the situation in the art 
world to-day. The amateur collector is always afraid of being 
landed with a forgery. The dealer may feel instinctively that a 
picture is authentic or spurious. But he will refer the collector 
to an 'expert' for a definite opinion. The latter is called in to 
eliminate the risk of acquiring a forged work. 

During the last few decades such forgeries have repeatedly 
disturbed artistic circles. Nowadays no dealer or expert will 
examine a picture without remembering that it may be forged. 
A forgery may have come about in various ways. Some artists 
become 'forgers' quite involuntarily, simply because their works 
are attributed to someone else. Others deliberately mislead the 
public out of sheer caprice and self-confidence, sometimes teach- 
ing a salutary lesson by doing so. Ambition, vanity and poverty 
are other motives which induce people to make a bid for fame 
and fortune by this unusual method. A good many others simply 

xi 



INTRODUCTION 



swindle in order to get rich quick and are quite properly sent to 
prison for their frauds. But such punishments do not annul the 
success of their proceedings. The potential forger remains on 
the look-out for a favourable opportunity, for both dealers and 
famous experts are often deceived. 

Dealers move in a peculiarly ambiguous world. Forgery trials 
sometimes expose them as cheats. But more often they appear 
for the prosecution, having discovered the swindle in their 
professional capacity. Many prominent dealers have entered art 
history as a result of their relations with artists and detections of 
fraud. The trade is certainly a unique and mysterious one. The 
Roman antiquary Augusto Jandolo writes: C A dealer's life 
would provide the writer of farce with endlessly hilarious 
material. Shrewd plans, matured over long periods in utter 
seclusion and secrecy, craftily concocted frauds of the most 
subtle or impudent character, end in situations which Boccaccio 
might have contrived. When such deceptions are sooner or later 
brought to light, they send half the world into paroxysms of fury 
or laughter/ 

Experts are to be found occupying university Chairs and 
acting as Directors of galleries. But genuine, though not formally 
acknowledged, experts also exist among dealers, artists and 
connoisseurs. Martin Porkay writes: theoretical study alone 
will not enable a man to understand pictures and judge their 
quality, so as to pronounce on their authenticity. Personally, I 
had no desire to become a Professor or the Director of a gallery. 
So I didn't trouble to take a degree.* Porkay exposed a number 
of frauds and knew by experience what practical difficulties beset 
an art expert. He not only has to cope with forgers and their 
forgeries, unmask them and render them harmless. He is also 
involved in hostilities with the owners of such forgeries, who 
resent their detection and sometimes do not hesitate to institute 
proceedings themselves with a view to having the suspected 
works declared genuine. Some of the greatest of acknowledged 
experts, men whose names are only mentioned with bated breath, 
have certainly in their time made sensational discoveries. But 
often their mistakes have been equally sensational. 

Art forgeries are 'news' to-day. But they are as old as art 
itself. Many works in great demand and of correspondingly 
high market value have at all times and in all parts of the world 

xii 



INTRODUCTION 

been forged. In Horace's own day, he writes, *A man in a 
quandary is capable of a thousand tricks to get what he wants. 
He'll try a thousand short cuts and rogueries to gain his purpose.' 

There were such things as art forgeries even in ancient Greece. 
Apelles is said to haye signed and offered for sale certain works 
by Protogenes, whom he wished to help in this way. Phidias is 
recorded to have done the same thing for the same reason in the 
case of a statue of Aphrodite by his favourite pupil Agoracritus. 

Such frauds were also common in Roman imperial times. 
Paintings and statues bearing the signatures of well-known 
Greek artists were offered to dealers and connoisseurs. Certain 
studios, we are told, specialised in the production of silver cups 
and bronzes of animals, hundreds of which were thrown on the 
market. Two cups by the then famous artist Calamis were so 
closely copied by one Zenodorus as to be indistinguishable from 
the originals. Other works are known to have been inscribed, 
by profit-seeking swindlers, with the names of Praxiteles and 
Pausias. 

In the sixteenth century the demand for specimens of antique 
art became so insatiable that a regular industry was devoted to 
their fabrication. Its practitioners excused themselves with a 
smile, observing that "believers and unbelievers have always 
deceived the credulous'. At that time such forgeries were not 
taken very seriously, since a certain level of technical skill was 
required for their production and in the case of a genuine work 
of art commanded exceptional admiration. It is not surprising, 
therefore, to find Lorenzo de' Medici persuading Michelangelo 
to give his statue of Cupid a look of the antique and sell it as 
such. When the fraud was discovered the young sculptor was 
quite proud of having executed work comparable with that of 
the ancients. Other sculptures by him were also subsequently 
advertised as 'antiques' and must accordingly be regarded as 
forgeries." No doubt many other falsifications occurred at that 
time with no intent to deceive, Paintings were altered on grounds 
of taste or for political or religious reasons and thus became 
frauds. 

The archaeological discoveries of the nineteenth century also 
provided models for those engaged in the dangerous trade of 
art forgery. The site of Homer's Troy was investigated. Nineveh 
was found, Babylon excavated. Study of the secrets of the 

xiii 



INTRODUCTION 

Pyramids began. The first striking discoveries were made, at the 
same time, in the shadowy realm of bogus art. Sensational 
revelations excited the Press throughout the world and gravely 
disturbed artistic ckcles. The story of Giovanni Bastianini, the 
'reluctant forger', was told. Dealers detected the mistake made 
by experts who had taken the portrait of a modern factory- 
worker for that of a sixteenth-century philosopher, Benivieni, 
by an artist of that period, and allowed it to pass as such. Other 
dealers cheated by representing to experts as originals a certain 
mysterious 'pre-Christian' tiara, fabrications by Dossena and 
copies of works by Van Gogh and Spiteweg. But in the contro- 
versy over the bust of Flora and in the exposure of many French 
forgers of paintings dealers proved themselves experts in tracking 
down imposture. 

During the last few decades numerous scandals in this field 
have greatly damaged the prestige of authorities on art. In some 
cases confessions by the forgers themselves led to censure of the 
dealers and experts concerned. Outstanding swindlers in this 
connection have been, in Italy, Holland and Germany, Alceo 
Dossena, Han van Meegeren and Lothar Malskat. Such culprits 
spoke of 'deception for beauty's sake' and their 'reaction against 
conspiracy by cliques and especially critics' to suppress their 
work. They expected to be admired like film stars and artists of 
great reputation. They haughtily pointed out to thek accusers 
that they were fully the equals of the well-known masters 'in 
whose spirit' their works had been 'conceived anew'. They gave 
interviews to the Press in which they explained and defended 
their artistic methods. Many people, in secret, thought highly 
of them. It was found only too easy to disregard the meanness 
of the deliberate fraud. The forgers, condemned by connoisseurs 
and sentenced by the Courts, were often pitied. A mysterious 
glamour enfolded such episodes in an artist's life. The tragic 
fate of many artists thus branded as cheats and the attraction 
exercised by events so extraordinary gave rise to much discussion. 
The phrases 'comedy of errors' and 'art's merry-go-round' were 
heard. 

'Do such forgeries really do any harm to the trade in antiques ?' 
asks Augusto Jandolo. 'No,' he continues. 'On the contrary, 
curiosity is aroused and knowledge improved in the trade by 
these revelations.' Wolfgang Goethe agreed with him. For 

xiv 



INTRODUCTION 

Goethe himself tells us he collected counterfeits of antique coins 
*in order to make me more and more appreciative of the originals 
through comparison with deceptive imitations/ The same result 
can be obtained in other fields of art. 'Nothing is so apt to 
sharpen one's ability to discern the genuine as the recognition 
of a forgery/ writes Friedrich Winkler. It was the practical 
importance of these discoveries which the great connoisseur had 
in mind. 

The study of art forgery brings to light the basic distinction 
between the genuine and the spurious, facilitates the detection of 
fraud and reveals the true nature of art. During the last few 
decades, accordingly, numerous exhibitions, lectures and publi- 
cations, as well as sound and television broadcasts, have drawn 
attention to the subject in circles far beyond those directly 
concerned with art. This consideration has also led to the 
compilation of the following pages. Their object is to survey, 
for the first time, in its entirety, the wide field of battle between 
forgers, dealers and experts and thus clarify the real character of 
art. 

SEPP SCHULLER 



XV 



CHAPTER 1 



Egypt, the Forgers' Paradise 



ART FORGERIES were perpetrated on the banks of the Nile even in 
the early historical period. A number of metal and stone objects 
found in Egyptian tombs, dating from the pre-Christian era, have 
proved to be imitations. After excavation began, with a rising 
demand for the objects unearthed, their fabrication became an 
industry and the country, consequently, a forger's paradise. 

Mohareb Todous, an eminent collector of Egyptian works of 
art, has stated: 'There are three main categories in any Egyptian 
collection, those of genuine antiquities, imitations of high artistic 
merit and forgeries of little value/ He has been careful to divide 
his pieces into authentic and spurious items, making a clear dis- 
tinction between old and new. But he declares that it is extremely 
difficult to come to a decision. A sure taste in matters of art is 
required in these preliminary investigations and a lifelong con- 
cern with Egyptian history and civilisation is necessary for 
accuracy of judgment. 

Kurt Lange, in his Pyramids, Sphinxes and Pharaohs, describes 
the methods of the art forgers of Dira Abu'n-Naga. They occupy 
cavities in the fields, completely concealed from view and yet 
close to the road used by foreigners to enter the Valley of the 
Kings. Works of art are counterfeited by primitive means and 
may include large and small stone heads and sarcophagus masks. 
The ancient Egyptian style is imitated, being copied from illus- 
trations in guide-books to the Cairo Museum and other collec- 
tions. New works in stone generally show a combination of 
incongruous features, such as lips taken from the Amarna period, 
Tuthrnosis eyes and Rameses noses. But such productions can 
scarcely rank as forgeries. The term is really only applicable when 
craftsmen in the dealers* workshops at Luxor lay on 'ancient' 



FORGERS, DEALERS, EXPERTS 

traces of colour or otherwise give the illusion of age by various 
cunning procedures. The imitations then become, in the eyes of 
enraptured tourists, venerable and genuine masterpieces. 

At times even experts are deceived by these subtle devices. 
Excavations of the sculptor's studio at King Ikhnaton's palace, 
the modelling room of the Court Sculptor to Tuthmosis and the 
treasures of King Tutankhamun's tomb, inspired the forgers to 
special efforts of imitation. Genuine old material was treated, 
with an ancient type of tool, in a fashion so close to that of the 
original as to be hardly distinguishable from it. 

The high demand for mummies led to repeated forgeries of 
these objects. Every stage of counterfeit work, from the most 
refined to the coarsest, is represented in this field. The more 
primitive productions are often detected by their smell alone. 
Even the most 'perfect* imitations can be exposed by Rontgen 
rays. Public and private collections are constantly dispensing 
with pieces which had never formerly been suspected by anyone. 
For example, a certain Egyptian mummy had been regarded for 
the last fifty years as the showpiece of the Dutch provincial 
gallery of archaeology at Zwolle. It was supposed to be 3600 
years old. But in 1955 a Rontgen photograph proved that the 
mummy contained four bones and a torso that did not correspond 
anatomically. It is known that the Bedouin still sell mummies 
consisting of fragments of human bones artfully wrapped in 
ancient cloth. 'Egyptian antiquities' are even fabricated to-day 
in western Europe. The history of a monumental statue of 
Rameses in a French collection is as follows. A certain amateur 
was looking for an effective figure to decorate his largest apart- 
ment, used for receptions. The dealers he consulted naturally 
bestirred themselves to supply such a statue. One day an agent 
reported that a colossal figure of Rameses, over lifesise, had just 
been discovered in the ruins of Thebes and could be bought for 
100,000 francs. The collector was told that other offers had been 
made. In spite of the unusually high price demanded he agreed 
to purchase the statue. The dealer proceeded to inform him, in 
a number of successive reports, that very arduous and prolonged 
work had been necessary to load up the statue, transport it up 
the Nile to Alexandria, where tedious negotiations with the 
authorities ensued, till at last the figure was placed aboard a new 
steamer, and carried in rough weather across the Mediterranean 



EGYPT, THE FORGERS PARADISE 

to Naples, Genoa and finally Marseilles. When the long expected 
consignment eventually arrived at its destination, the size and 
beauty of the statue captivated everyone who saw it. Then the 
figure was examined more closely by connoisseurs and some 
preliminary doubts were expressed. Disquieting variations from 
the style of the alleged date of origin, the zoth dynasty, were 
discovered. The state of preservation, moreover, was surprisingly 
good. Traces of the use of modern tools were found. It turned 
out that the statue was not made of Egyptian basalt at all, but of 
ordinary clay-slate from the Angers district. In fact, the figure 
of Rameses bought for 100,000 francs had been made, for noo 
francs, out of rubble from Trelaze, near that city. All the stories 
about difficult preparatory work, secret acquisition and transport 
were lies, invented to gain time for the manufacture of the statue, 
which had only just been completed. The fraudulent seller was 
put on trial and found guilty. It was not only collectors of ancient 
Egyptian works of art who learnt a good deal from this affair, 



CHAPTER 2 



The Cat diff Giant 



IN OCTOBER 1869 a farmer named Newell was digging a well near 
the small village of Cardiff in the State of New York when he 
came upon an immense mass of stone. On closer examination 
the shape of a massive foot, with a toe to match, was discerned. 
The whole figure was unearthed and proved to be that of a giant 
nine feet high, with one hand placed against the stomach and the 
other touching the back. The find was too heavy to lift. Its 
weight was ascertained later to be 2990 Ibs. No one at first 
thought it surprising that the farmer at once stopped digging his 
well and concentrated upon making a profit by showing his 
"miracle man' to a great many interested visitors. He only made 
a charge for inspection, he said, because these people trampled 
down his fields and spoiled the crops. 

A tent was put up over the pit in which the figure lay. Each 
visitor paid Mrs Newell fifty cents. Later on the charge rose to 
a dollar. More and more persons were attracted to the spot. A 
regular horse-omnibus service was organised from a neighbouring 
town. People came to reside in the locality. Shops were opened. 
Newell made quite a good profit. 

A Red Indian 'guide 7 was appointed. He informed the as- 
tonished visitors that his ancestors had once fought against 
giants, capturing them in deep pits. Strolling preachers affirmed 
that the find substantiated what the Bible had to say about 
giants. Scholars and experts arrived. Some expressed no opinion. 
But others thought that the statue might date from the period of 
the Jesuit missions. A further group favoured the theory that it 
was a fossilised specimen of prehistoric man. Demands arose on 
all sides for a thorough investigation of the discovery. With the 
aid of powerful cranes and levers the mysterious colossus was 



THE CARDIFF GIANT 

hoisted up and taken to Syracuse, where it was exhibited to 
eager crowds, hotly debating the question of its fossilised or 
artificial nature, its antiquity or modernity, its genuine or spurious 
character. 

Professor Marsh of Yale University and his colleague A. D. 
White of Cornell University were the first to call attention to the 
possibility of forgery. White detached a small fragment from 
the figure for examination. His results were amazing. The 
material was ordinary plaster of Paris, of quite recent manufacture. 

As in nearly all scandals of this kind people were reluctant to 
believe the truth. Many continued to hope that the much admired 
figure might yet prove to be genuine ancient work. At any rate 
the statue made a sensation in the State of New York which 
proved profitable. The great American circus proprietor Barnum 
took a chance, offering Newell a high price for his 'find'. The 
sum of 100,000 dollars was mentioned. But the farmer declined 
this proposal. Instead, he sold the 'giant* for 37,000 dollars plus 
25 per cent of all future takings from exhibition. But when the 
statue reached New York, the shrewd Barnum was already 
showing a second 'Cardiff giant*, which he had quietly been 
manufacturing, as the 'real thing'. The competition between the 
two exhibitors proved an extraordinarily effective draw. The 
two 'giants' travelled the country far and wide and attracted 
equal admiration. 

But the true story of the origin of NewelPs 'find' soon came 
out. The fraud was exposed by a journalist who ferreted out the 
actual course of events as follows. 

The farmer had not needed a new well at all. His digging 
activities and 'accidental* discovery had been cleverly planned, 
He had been making over a high percentage of his earnings from 
the affair to his brother-in-law George Hull in -New York. 
Investigations of Hull's career revealed that some years before 
he had acquired a large block of gypsum in a quarry near Fort 
Dodge. It was found that he had forwarded this block to a 
stonemason named Edward Burckhardt in Chicago. Burckhardt 
admitted that he had manufactured the figure. 

He said he had taken very great pains with it. Hull had sat as 
a model for the head. Sulphuric acid had provided the 'evidences 
of age'. Hull confessed that he and Newell had buried the figure 
at night in the farmer's clover-field and that he, not Newell, was 

5 



FORGERS, DEALERS, EXPERTS 

primarily responsible for the plot. He had got the idea in the 
first place, he said, from the sermon of a Methodist clergyman 
on the subject of the giants mentioned in the Bible and allegations 
that their remains had been found. Hull's expectations of profit 
from his fraud were not disappointed. The swindle turned out to 
be good business for himself and Newell in particular. It was 
stated that they had cleared about 100,000 dollars between them. 
At the same time, however, it appears that the affair damaged the 
reputations of several scientists. 

The story of the Cardiff giant is by no means unique of its 
kind, A number of similar cases are known. But they could not 
always be elucidated so fully, with every step in the tale of fraud 
exposed, as happened in the foregoing example. 



CHAPTER 3 



Fame comes to the village of Gloizel 



IN THE NINETEEN-TWENTIES the attention of the whole world 
was drawn to finds in the small village of Glozel, situated in the 
Madeleine Hills, some i2-| miles south-east of Vichy. Scientists 
were confronted by entirely new problems. For the mysterious 
objects found suggested that the c cradle of civilisation' might 
after all be located in central France. 

One March day in 1924 Emile Fradin, a farmer's and builder's 
labourer, aged twenty, was ploughing in a field near Glozel 
when he came across traces of a wall and bricks. A shallow, oval 
pit about nine feet long and three wide was marked out by 
stones. Fragments of pottery lay at the bottom. Next day, only 
a few yards from the pit, he stumbled upon a small stone pickaxe 
and a stone slab with clearly visible, man-made marks on it. 

News of these and other finds spread in the district. More and 
more people came to inspect and wonder at Fradin's discoveries. 
The village schoolmistress, Mile Picandet, brought her pupils 
to the site to show them the surviving traces of their ancestors 
and point out the new importance of Glozel, hitherto so obscure. 
She notified her professional superiors of the occurrence. They 
in their turn applied to a local committee concerned with improv- 
ing trade conditions and encouraging tourists. Representatives 
called at Fradin's farm to enquire about the feasibility of further 
investigations of the site. The family, however, demanded pay- 
ment. Although the site was not fertile, they wanted fifty francs 
for every two days that digging lasted. As the land had scarcely 
any economic value, the figure was extortionate. The committee, 
moreover, had no funds available for such a purpose. Nor could 
the sum required be raised in any other way. So no further steps 
were taken. 



FORGERS, DEALERS, EXPERTS 

At this point Dr A. Morlet of Vichy took a hand. As a student 
of Gallo-Roman civilisation he took a great interest in all ex- 
cavation work in France. On hearing of the finds at Glozel he 
immediately betook himself to the village in order to form some 
idea, on the spot, of the importance of the discoveries and the 
possibility of further digging. He deduced from the character of 
the material and the way in which it had been treated that an 
earlier period than the Gallo-Roman must be assigned to it. 

In conversation with the Fradins he was told of previous finds 
in the same field. It appeared that when the family bought the 
house in 1870 the outgoing owner had shown them a clay pitcher 
with peculiar marks on it. He said he had kept it on the mantel- 
piece for a long time. But it was thrown away when the Fradins 
took possession. 

Dr Morlet was much impressed by this information and above 
all by the finds themselves. On hearing that Fradin intended to 
put the field under cultivation and prevent further excavation, 
the doctor offered to take a nine years* lease of the land at an 
annual rent of 200 francs. The agreement signed included rights 
of pre-emption, photography and publication secured to the 
lessee in respect of all articles found. 

Further excavation yielded a large number of objects, mostly 
carved bones and strange stone slabs with indecipherable mark- 
ings. They were at first attributed by scientists to the presence 
of old glazing works, such as had occasionally been found in the 
neighbourhood. But the pictures of reindeer, the teeth of this 
animal and of panthers amazed the specialists. For hitherto it 
had been taken for granted that reindeer ceased to exist in France 
at the end of the Old Stone Age. It was therefore suspected that 
the finds were even older than had been originally assumed and 
dated back some 30,000 years. 

In 1926 Morlet published an account of his discoveries, which 
immediately became the subject of international dispute among 
scientists. Some declared that the finds were bogus, deliberately 
forged by Fradin for profit. The doctor himself was attacked for 
his arbitrary proceedings in the matter. Other scientists, how- 
ever, were convinced that the objects found were genuine. A 
Dutch specialist took impressions of all the written characters 
and after studying them in Amsterdam announced that he under- 
stood their meaning. c These characters', he wrote, 'reveal 

8 



FAME COMES TO THE VILLAGE OF GLOZEL 

intimate glimpses of the lives and ideas of these perfectly honest, 
simple and yet somewhat advanced specimens of humanity. 
They provide the unique phenomenon of a limited and primitive 
type of Hebraic literature.' He continued: c The inscriptions and 
their extremely complex alphabet are of Semitic origin. The 
people were Jews of partly Aramaic descent, formerly employed 
in the turquoise mines on Mount Sinai. They were brought to 
France by the Phoenicians, as slaves, and settled in the Phoenician 
colony of Sen at the mouth of the Rhone. Thence they migrated 
northwards, at first up the river and later by land, establishing 
themselves eventually in the Glozel district.* 

The International Institute for Anthropology despatched a 
committee of scholars to the village who were instructed to 
prepare a unanimous report. The French Government deckred 
the site to be of the greatest importance and prohibited access to 
it. But the whole affair grew more and more mysterious. 

At the beginning of 1928 a surgeon who was also, like Dr 
Morlet, a student of archaeology, though unlike the doctor he 
was convinced that the Glozel finds were bogus, laid a formal 
accusation of fraud against some person or persons unknown. 
The police searched Fradin's premises. They confiscated about 
a hundred excavated items. Hundreds of other slabs, stone axes 
and carved and chased bones were left in the barn, and continued 
to be exhibited at the Tradin Museum'. The duly certified pieces 
were studied by Edmond Bayle in the Paris Police Laboratory 
throughout the rest of the year. 

The services of the Lyons Police Laboratory were simul- 
taneously called upon. An international committee was charged 
with the duty of carrying out tests of the suspected material from 
the most diverse points of view. This body comprised such 
eminent experts as the Parisian archaeologist Salomon Reinach, 
the geologist and palaeontologist Dep6ret, of the University of 
Lyons, Loth, the specialist in Celtic languages, the Latin scholar 
Audollent of Clermont University, whose particukr field was the 
interpretation of incantations in medieval Latin, and the British 
Hellenist Dr Foat. 

An impassioned debate ensued. Accusations and counter- 
accusations darkened the air. More and more complications and 
doubts beset the case. The Swedish criminologist Harry Soder- 
man, in his memoirs entitled On the Trail of Crime, gives an 



FORGERS, DEALERS, EXPERTS 

account of his experiences as a member of the research committee 
at Glozel. In his opinion the original layers of soil must have 
been disturbed if the materials were forged and had been buried 
at a later period. As, however, further finds were made among 
the roots of ancient shrubs, below untouched layers of soil, the 
authenticity of the items, regarded from this standpoint, appeared 
conclusively proved. Nor did the fingerprints found on the 
articles correspond in any way with those of the Fradin family 
and Dr Morlet. Accordingly, the committee in question, after 
long investigations, decided that the finds were genuine. Local 
enthusiasm knew no bounds. It was actually proposed that the 
State should officially recognise the position by conferring crosses 
of the Legion of Honour on both Fradin and Dr Morlet. Then 
came the thunderbolt of M. Bayle's expert testimony from the 
Paris Police Laboratory. The following points were made. A 
thread of aniline-dyed cotton had been found on one of the 
Glosel slabs and a potato seed on another item. Chlorophyll had 
also been identified in the remains of plants found in the argil- 
laceous dust from the potsherds. Yet chlorophyll cannot be 
retained longer than thirty years. Consequently, it was certain 
that the vegetable remains identified must have belonged to 
plants cut approximately during the period 1920-7. Another 
line of investigation proved that metal tools had been used on 
the pots, which could not, therefore, date from the Ice Age. 
Bayle stated emphatically that the clay had not been fired, but 
merely sun-dried. He adduced a simple and convincing proof. 
When the clay-dust was mixed with water it became easily 
malleable. Those who had always been suspicious of the genuine- 
ness of the Glozel finds referred to the affair as 'one of the biggest 
frauds in history'. But their adversaries would not give in. They 
pointed out that Fradin had not been allowed to be present at 
the investigations, that individual articles had not been packed 
separately, as prescribed by law, and transported under seal, and 
that the production of forgeries in such quantity would have 
needed the collaboration of an entire factory and for that reason 
alone was out of the question. Provincial newspapers carried 
such headlines as c Glo2el Demands Legal Action', C A Community 
Fights for its Honour' and 'Bayle's Irresponsible Dilettantism'. 
The first ditties about Tots and Pans from Glozel' began to be 
heard in the cabarets of Montmartre. 

10 



FAME COMES TO THE VILLAGE OF GLOZEL 

Meanwhile, however, Bayle established conclusive proof of 
fraud. He placed one of the fragments of pottery alleged to be 
thousands of years old in a vessel filled with water, which was 
then sealed before witnesses. Next day the fragment was found 
to have dissolved. It was the simplest and most convincing 
evidence possible of fabrication. Material supposed to have 
withstood burial in the damp earth for millennia had vanished in 
a single night. 

But many inexplicable features of the case remained. The 
finds had undoubtedly been forged, though the villagers refused 
to believe it and continued to exhibit their treasures at the 
'museum' as 'certified by the highest authorities*. But who was 
the guilty party who had manufactured the things ? What could 
be the object of so elaborate a swindle? How could its per- 
petrator have penetrated below undisturbed layers of soil? 
Could an ignorant peasant lad of twenty have taken so much 
trouble to study prehistory? And where did he find those 
perfectly genuine reindeer bones ? Had the previous owner of the 
land or some other person staged the affair as a practical joke? 

These and many other questions can no longer be answered, 
especially as most of those concerned are now dead. The 'Gloizel 
Case* remains one of the riddles of the story of art forgery. 



ii 



CHAPTER 4 



The Venus of the Turnip Field 



THE DISPUTE over the discovery of the 'Venus of Brizet*, also 
known as the 'Venus of the Turnip Field', from the place where 
it was found, ended in laughter. 

On the 2nd May 1937 a farmer named Gonon, of St Just-sur- 
Loire, near Brizet, turned up a large block of stone while plough- 
ing a turnip field. On being dug up the block proved to be part 
of a marble statue of Venus executed in the antique style. It 
became known as the Venus of Brizet (see illustration), attracting 
much attention and admiration. 

Such experts as Georges Huisman and Noel Thiolier described 
the figure as genuine Greek or Greco-Roman work of the first 
century B.C. Journalists wrote excitedly of a 'masterpiece of the 
first rank' and a c new birth of Aphrodite*. The statue was com- 
pared with the Venus of Milo. Some people even thought it 
might be ascribed to Praxiteles or Phidias. Gonon put the figure 
on exhibition in his house. Amateurs of art and tourists boldly 
faced the journey to the lonely farm. Prominent personages 
advocated transfer of the new find to Paris. A purchase price of 
250,000 francs was mentioned. 

But in 1938 Francesco Cremonese, a young Italian sculptor 
living in France, made a statement. He deposited an affidavit 
with a solicitor to the effect that two years previously he himself 
had executed and buried the 'Venus of Brizet*. He said he had 
done so in order to convince his fellow-citizens of his talent, 
which they had neglected to recognise. He added that an eighteen- 
year-old Polish girl, Anna Studnicka, had served him as a model, 
that the work had taken him three years and was completed in 
1934. He went on to describe how he had removed the left arm, 
the nose and the lower part of the figure in order to give the 

12 



THE VENUS OF THE TURNIP FIELD 

impression of the ravages of time. His brother had helped him 
to bury the statue in the hope that one day it would be 'discovered*. 
It was not until the sculptor heard of the plan to buy his 'antique 
Venus' for the city of Paris that he revealed the secret, thus 
clearing himself of the serious charge of deliberate deception and 
forgery that might otherwise have been made. 

The public laughed at the credulous specialists who had so 
easily been cheated. But the latter in their turn smiled at the 
self-styled 'artist* and declined to entertain any doubts of the 
genuine antiquity of the statue. More and more interest was taken 
in the 'Venus of Brizet'. 

But on the i6th December 1938 Cremonese demonstrated the 
truth of his statements in the presence of a large number of 
witnesses, including experts, dealers and representatives of the 
Press. He produced his Polish model. He displayed the three 
sections of the figure which he had removed. No further hesita- 
tion was possible. Admiration of the 'Venus of Brizet' dissolved 
in smiles at the 'Venus of the Turnip Field'. 

The public followed with amusement the controversy over the 
ownership of the work, made by Cremonese but found by Gonon 
on his own land. But soon the matter was forgotten, for with 
the outbreak of war France had other things to think about. In 
1954-5 however, the 'Venus of Brizet' constituted an item in 
some important exhibitions of art forgeries held in Paris. 



CHAPTER 5 



Counterfeits of Diirer's Works 



'Mundus wit decipi\ wrote the Alsatian poet and jurist Sebastian 
Brant in his Ship of Fools, published in 1494. 'The world likes to 
be deceived/ He might well have been thinking of art forgeries, 
among other things, for a great many were perpetrated in his day. 
Diirer was one of the chief victims. 

This artist, who lived from 1471 to 15285 was regarded even 
in his lifetime as the most eminent citizen of Nuremberg and the 
most important of German painters into the bargain. His 
paintings, drawings, copper engravings and woodcuts were 
admired, sought after and highly prized by his contemporaries. 
His imitators were therefore tempted to pass off his works as 
their own and thus incur the guilt of forgery. 

Diirer complains, writing to his friend Willibald Pirckheimer 
from Venice in February 1506: *I have many enemies who copy 
my works in churches and wherever else they can get hold of 
them/ At this time, while the Nuremberg master was painting 
his 'Festival of the Rose Garlands* in Venice, the first copies of 
his 'Life of the Virgin', fabricated by Marc Antonio (c. 1482-1 5 3 3), 
appeared on the market. Diirer applied for redress to the Venetian 
Signory. That body, in 1506, forbade the copyist to use Diirer*s 
monogram. 

In those days only an artist's signature could be protected 
from imitation. The picture itself was e free from copyright*. 
Anyone could make and sell a reproduction of it. No attempt 
was made to restrict distribution of prints copied from those of 
Diker's 'Life of the Virgin* so long as they did not bear the 
master's sign manual. Marc Antonio could not, therefore, be 
prevented from reproducing thirty-seven prints of Diirer's 'Little 
Passion* woodcuts and other works by him. The Italian is 

14 



COUNTERFEITS OF DURER/S WORKS 

reported to have copied no less than eighty. His place in the 
history of art is simply that of a forger. He is praised for his 'rare 
capacity to elucidate and thoroughly understand the style and 
spirit of another's work in his engravings*. In the case of other, 
more or less free, borrowings from Diirer, it is hard to draw the 
line between instances of inspiration and mere copying, the 
permissible and the impermissible. Agostino de Musi, Giovanni 
Antonio da Brescia, Nicoletto da Modena, Benedetto da Montagna, 
Hieronymus Hopfer and Virgil Solis are recorded to have 
produced such imitations. 

The art historian Sandrart (1606-68) states that Diirer*s works 
were also copied by German artists. His German School of the 
Noble Arts of Architecture, Sculpture and Painting, the primary 
source of German historiography in the artistic field, mentions 
the Nuremberg painter Hans Leonhard Schaufelein (1480-1540) 
as being so exact an imitator of Diirer's style 'that often the best 
authorities were in doubt whether to ascribe his works to Diirer 
or himself*. Schaufelein, like other painters of his day, seems to 
have taken the greatest possible delight in copying the produc- 
tions of outstanding artists. He is said to have drawn attention 
with pride to his delusive imitations of works by Diirer, Cranach 
and other German artists. There is no reason to suppose that he 
was a deliberate forger, though some of his pictures were taken 
at a later date to be forgeries. But he himself never claimed 
originality, so far as is known. 

The so-called Master of the Death of the Virgin (c. 1510-30) 
also copied Diirer. Thausing considered his Madonnas 'more 
charming even than those of Diirer himself', though he adds that 
the younger man did not hesitate to append Diirer's well known 
monogram to these delightful productions (see illustration). 

Hieronymus Greff, called Hieronymus of Frankfurt, sent out 
copies of Diirer's 'Apocalypse* series from Strasbourg, signing 
them I.V.F. Diirer complained to the Nuremberg municipality 
that his 'handiwork* was being 'fraudulently reproduced*. The 
city council cautioned the copyists. On the 3rd January 1 5 iz the 
Nuremberg magistracy prohibited the marketing of imitations of 
Diirer*s engravings and woodcuts. 

After Diirer's death the prices of his work rose and forgeries 
increased. In 1 5 28 his widow Agnes demanded protection of her 
rights against the competition of such imitations. The difficulty 

15 



FORGERS, DEALERS, EXPERTS 

of dealing with this problem in Nuremberg at the time is illus- 
trated by the fact that Agnes was obliged to purchase the forged 
blocks for the sum of ten gulden, in order to prevent further 
prints being issued. The local magistracy contributed half the 
cost, as no other means of assisting the widow could be contrived. 

Fraudulent reproduction of Diirer's works reached a climax 
at the turn of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. By that 
date originals were in great demand by collectors. But supply 
was far from adequate to meet it. The forgers pricked up their 
ears. Whole collections of alleged works by Diirer were fabri- 
cated. In the mid-sixteenth century, for instance, Leopold 
Wilhelm of Austria was cheated into buying no less than sixty- 
eight supposed to be by the artist. 

Contemporary forgeries found their way into the famous 
collection of Rudolf II at Prague. Some of them were by masters 
of the craft. Even to-day their productions are praised as 'techni- 
cally perfect*. One of the artists who specialised in drawings, 
water-colours and oil paintings in Diirer's style, which were 
'sold as originals by Diirer', was Hans Hoffmann (d. <r. 1591). 
His pictures were so highly esteemed that Rudolf II summoned 
him to Prague in 1584. A year later this prince paid 200 gulden 
for a *Hare* copied from Diirer's work of that name. Of the 
famous water-colour in question, preserved at the Albertina 
Museum, Vienna, there is a version in oil (see illustration) at the 
Barberini Gallery, Rome. This oil painting was for long regarded 
as an original work by Diirer. But in comparatively recent times 
closer study has led to its attribution to Hoffmann, who imitated 
so many other works by Diirer and died in Prague towards the 
end of the century. 

But there can be no certain solutions of such problems to-day, 
for many of Diirer's contemporaries made more or less faithful 
copies of his pictures. In addition to Hof&nann, Daniel Froschel 
of Augsburg, Ruprecht, Georg Gartner and Imhoff, a grandson 
of Diirer's friend of that name, are mentioned in this connection. 
It is even supposed that Joachim Patinir (/. 1520), an artist of 
high reputation nowadays, painted works based on Diirer's 
copper engravings. 

The first Elector of Bavaria, Maximilian I (1596-1652), re- 
garded Diirer as the ideal German artist. But as he could not 
obtain any originals, he ordered his Court Painters to copy 

16 




1 A genuine Rubens or a forgery? This painting turned up in the 
possession of an unemployed man; the experts disagree about 
its authenticity. 



'Virgin and Child.' Oil painting in the style of 
Durer and formerly ascribed to him. When 
later additions to the painting had been re- 
moved it was recognised as an imitation. 




COUNTERFEITS OF DURER*S WORKS 

certain works. Whether these imitations were later taken for 
originals to any extent and could accordingly rank as forgeries is 
another question which cannot now be answered. 

In those days the authentic and the spurious were not viewed, 
where art was concerned, in the same light as at the present time. 
Modern critics would consider that original works were being 
falsified by modification and overpainting. But Maximilian I 
ordered the wings of the Paumgartner altarpiece, the chief glory 
of the Old Pinakothek at Munich, to be overpainted. Accordingly, 
Johann Georg Fischer, in 1614, substituted landscape and horses 
for Durer's original dim, neutral background of 1498. Fischer, 
one of Maximilian's Court Painters, took motives from Durer's 
famous copper engraving, 'The Knight, Death and the Devil', 
cleverly reproducing the master's style. It was not until 1903 that 
this falsification was removed and the picture restored to its 
original condition. 

It is known that in later times forgeries of Durer's work were 
perpetrated even outside Germany. About 1650 the painter Luca 
Giordano was accused by a certain Prior, before the Royal Court 
of Justice at Naples, of having counterfeited a picture by Diirer. 
It is not quite clear whether the case was in fact one of what 
would be called forgery to-day. It was found that Giordano had 
signed his own name on a hidden spot at the back of the picture. 
The Court decided the case in his favour. The senior magistrate 
of Naples was so delighted by the work in question that he bought 
it from the indignant Prior for 600 scudi. 

Centuries later another forgery scandal in connection with 
Durer's work occurred in Naples. One of his drawings had been 
copied in the design of a relief preserved in the National Museum 
as part of an 'antique marble fountain* supposed to have come 
from Pompeii. Diirer's art had thus actually served as a model 
for counterfeiting the antique! 

Diirer forgeries were given a wide circulation and considerable 
importance by bogus copper engravings and woodcuts. Some 
were offered at high prices, as so called 'first printings*. Modern 
critics believe that about half a million forged drawings were 
produced. The figure seems fantastically exaggerated but is not 
really so. It becomes intelligible when one realises that in the 
course of about 450 years countless artists and swindlers were 
engaged in copying the master's engravings and woodcuts. 

c 17 



FORGERS, DEALERS, EXPERTS 

Prints which were originally made quite honestly as part of an 
artist's self-education, for practice, without being given Diirer's 
monogram, were subsequently turned into forgeries by the 
addition of his initials. It is known, for example, that Jan Wierix, 
the distinguished Flemish engraver on copper, copied Diirer's 
woodcuts in the sixteenth century. But he acknowledged them 
to be imitations by appending his own signature. Later, however, 
his name was often erased and the prints marketed as originals 
by Durer. 

Both forgeries and imitations of original prints can easily be 
detected nowadays by comparison with the works of proved 
authenticity from which they were derived. Differences are 
apparent in the type of paper and above all in the linear technique. 
But the most inconspicuous details are sometimes decisive. For 
example, in a copyist's print of Diirer's copper engraving of *St 
Jerome in his Study' the claw of the little toe of the lion's left 
forepaw was left white, whereas in the original it was slightly 
shaded. This variation was enough to demonstrate forgery. 

'The most shameless of all imitations of Diirer's work' is the 
copy of his self-portrait, preserved as such, in the house he once 
occupied at Nuremberg (see illustration). The portrait in question 
is the famous one, with the face framed in long curls, which has 
come to be regarded as best representing the artist's personality 
(see illustration). The original had been owned ever since the 
sixteenth century by the municipality of Nuremberg, where it 
was kept in the plate-room of the Town Hall. But in 1799 it was 
lent to the Nuremberg painter Abraham Wolfgang Kiiffner 
(1760-1817), probably in order to have a copy made. The panel, 
made of limewood, was some 1 5 mm thick. Kiifiher separated 
the front from the back by sawing in a direction parallel to the 
painted surface. On the front of the second panel obtained in 
this way he painted a copy of Diirer's original. He supplied this 
copy to the Council as if it were the original, thus committing 
both forgery and theft. 

It is intelligible enough that the fraud was not immediately 
detected. No one had any reason to suspect such a thing. In any 
case the original rear face of the panel, with its seals and other 
marks of identification, had remained undisturbed. The reduced 
thickness of the wood, which might otherwise have led to ex- 
posure of the trick, was concealed by the edges of the frame. 

18 



COUNTERFEITS OF DURER S WORKS 

Probably no precise measurement of that particular dimension 
had ever been taken. Nor is it likely that the panel as delivered 
was at all closely examined, especially as Kuflher, a professional 
painter, engraver and printer, was considered quite reliable. 

His previous career had been perfectly unexceptionable. From 
1779 to I 7 8 ke had attended the university of Altdorf and 
given drawing lessons there. He had resided in Nuremberg since 
1786, painting portraits and small-scale illustrations of history, 
which he signed either with his full name, the initials AWK or a 
monogram of those letters. Though he was regarded, so far as 
his copper engravings and etchings were concerned, as a typical 
self-taught practitioner, he was nevertheless esteemed as c one of 
the best artists' in the city and later described as "the Nuremberg 
Chodowiecki'. 

But the chief reason why his deception did not come to light 
for so long was the political unrest of the times. The fact that 
nearly all the more sensational art forgeries were perpetrated 
under the shadow of war or widespread political agitation is no 
mere coincidence. In 1796 the French revolutionary forces under 
General Jourdan reached Nuremberg. The art treasures of the 
city were hidden or conveyed to safety elsewhere. They probably 
included Durer's self-portrait. The citizens continued to be pre- 
occupied by political events during the following years. Conse- 
quently, Kuffner's duplicity remained undetected for some 
considerable time. 

At last he felt sufficiently secure to offer the stolen work by 
Diirer for sale. In 1805 it was purchased at third hand, the 
previous owner being one G. E. Petz, a lawyer, by the Elector 
of Bavaria for his collection at Munich. The price paid was 600 
gulden. It was only then that the Nuremberg Council began to 
feel uneasy. They compared the picture in their possession with 
that which had just turned up at Munich, and realised that they 
had been cheated. The sale of the original work to Munich had 
been quite legal and could not be annulled. Munich retained the 
work, thus acquiring one of the gems of the present collection 
in the Old Pinakothek. Nuremberg had to put up with the forged 
copy and the fame which the scandal of its substitution had 
caused. It was transferred to the Germanic National Museum in 
the city and after the last war put on permanent loan to the House 
of Diirer near the Zoological Gardens Gate. 



FORGERS, DEALERS, EXPERTS 

The art historian Franz Winzinger has recently made an 
exhaustive study of both the original and the forged copy of 
this work. His conclusions are important for their revelations 
of the essential contrasts between old and new, genuine and 
spurious. He observes with regard to the copy that the figure's 
facial expression *is quite blank and unreal'. The copy is much 
darker than the original at Munich, a result only partly due to 
fading of the pigment through age. KufFner worked from an 
original even darker, prior to its comparatively recent cleaning. 
The background has acquired a muddy and greasy aspect, the 
paint being so cracked and furrowed as to render the gold letter- 
ing of the inscription almost illegible. The writing, however, 
appears to correspond exactly with that on the Munich panel. 
The curling hair so splendidly painted by Durer has become a 
formless, pulpy mass in the copy, perhaps in consequence of a 
careless attempt at cleaning. 

*Diirer primed only the surface to be painted. He merely sized 
in irregular streaks die bare wood of the rear face of the panel, 
to prevent warping. This process was intended to neutralise 
distortion imposed on the front face of the panel by the priming. 
KMher, probably with a view to reproducing as closely as 
possible the condition of the original, also laid in streaks of size 
on the new rear face of the original, constituted when the panel 
was split. The step was of no practical use, for the panel was by 
then so old as to have long lost the early tendency to warp. But 
the unilateral distortion imposed on the back of the original by 
Kiiffner's sizing immediately bent the panel as soon as it was 
taken out of the frame. The back was also given a thick coating 
of red pigment, perhaps red-lead. On the back of the Nuremberg 
copy, in the upper right-hand corner, a small red seal, somewhat 
defaced externally, has been affixed. Nor is the copy now shown 
in the frame provided by Durer, which held the original, and 
must be presumed lost.* 

Kiiffner later fell a victim to the typical forger's obsession and 
turned to coining. Old documentary evidence records that in 
1807 he was sentenced for this crime to several years' imprison- 
ment in the castle of Rothenburg. On his release he returned to 
Nuremberg, where he was 'still held in esteem'. Characteristically 
enough, he took to issuing from his own works copper en- 
gravings copied from foreign originals. His prints were widely 

20 



COUNTERFEITS OF DURER*S WORKS 

used to illustrate calendars and almanacs. He died at Ingolstadt 
in 1817. 

Even in later times the Munich self-portrait was repeatedly the 
subject of discussion. Most connoisseurs believe that little now 
remains of its original state, which has been largely 'falsified*. 
Ochendovsky calls attention to ' subsequently imposed highlights, 
probably covering putty marks'. He considers that 'the face has 
been finely painted over, but the neck in a coarser style*. In his 
opinion, too, the left-hand area of the cloak 'has been completely 
coated with a somewhat muddy shade of brown'. The Diirer 
expert Curjel thinks that the authentic portrait had already 'been 
gone over' by 1 5 26. Friedrich Haack argues that the greater part 
of the picture as we have it has been overpainted. But other 
specialists, Win2inger for instance, describe the Munich panel as 
'in excellent condition, quite intact*. It is, however, generally 
taken as certain that the inscription on the right has been reno- 
vated. But views differ even in this connection, some critics 
supposing that Diirer himself revised the lettering, while Wolfflin 
deckres, in his well-kno\frn book on Diirer, that 'neither the 
monogram nor the date is genuine*. 

In 1954, at Rio de Janeiro, a well-known South American 
collector brought an action against a Hungarian nobleman, 
charging him with the sale of a painting alleged to be by Diirer 
but actually spurious. It was supposed to be a self-portrait and 
had been described by a number of experts as a first version of 
the famous Munich panel of 1500. But it was eventually proved 
to be a sixteenth-century work, probably by one of the copyists 
active under Maximilian I. 

A similar verdict was passed on a coloured version of the well- 
known copper engraving of 'The Knight, Death and the DeviP. 
The work was offered for sale in 1954 by a Dutch dealer and 
collector, who was found to have also offered it in 1934 to a 
syndicate of West German industrialists, at the price of 250,000 
marks, as a birthday gift for Hitler. On that occasion it had been 
proved a forgery and accordingly no scandal ensued. 

Doubts have been expressed about many works supposedly by 
Diirer. Expert opinions are often widely divergent and questions 
of authenticity cannot be decided for certain. Some of the 
disputed pictures are well-known works in leading galleries, for 
example the 'Virgin at Prayer* in the Kaiser Friedrich Museum, 

21 



FORGERS, DEALERS, EXPERTS 

Berlin. This painting, first discovered in 1894 in a private 
collection at Venice, was enthusiastically greeted at the time as 
an original composition by the master. But to-day it is assumed 
to be a copy executed at the end of the sixteenth century. The 
work is dated 1518 and is similar in style to Diirer's productions 
of that period. 

The Dresden Crucifixion' is also regarded by modern critics 
as derived from a work by Diirer, since in its present state no 
one could assert it to be by his own hand. The picture was 
acquired in 1865 from a private owner in Vienna. Its previous 
history cannot be ascertained. In this case the recorded date, 
1506, cannot be stylistically supported. It must have been 
chosen at random quite arbitrarily, at a kter time. 

The authenticity of Diirer's famous 'Green Passion* was long 
ago questioned by such connoisseurs of the artist's work as Jaro 
Springer, Ciirlis and Meder. Waagen wrote in 1867: 'Some of 
the prints have been badly damaged, while others show weak- 
nesses in draughtsmanship, particularly in the case of several 
heads, which can only be by another hand/ 'Diirer's preliminary 
sketches for certain items of the series of pen drawings supposed 
to have been executed in 1504 are still extant. They are so much 
better than the reproductions that it is scarcely possible to believe 
that the green prints are genuine.' The suspicion of forgery 
repeatedly arises in connection with this artist's work. As soon 
as a new picture is discovered its authorship is disputed. In 
England, for example, in 1957, an extremely interesting and 
puzzling version of the *St Jerome' turned up. It was attributed 
to the Veronese painter Caroto. But comparison with early 
drawings by Diirer led Carrit to the bold conclusion that it was 
an original work by the master. Then other critics adduced 
arguments invalidating his opinion. It was suggested that 
Albrecht Altdorfer of Regensburg might be responsible. 

In 1958 it was reported that a painting of the head of St John 
the Baptist had been ascribed to Diirer. Later it was declared to 
be by Griinewald. Then items in the Press stated that the picture 
had been transferred to the Metropolitan Museum of New York 
for safe keeping, but had subsequently disappeared. 

Works have quite often been attributed alternately to Diirer 
and Griinewald. A chalk drawing of an elderly man at the 
Stockholm Museum bears Diirer's signature and also a specific 

22 



COUNTERFEITS OF DURER's WORKS 

indication of his authorship. But the expert Max J. Friedlander 
attributes this production to Griinewald. In this case, however, 
a work purporting to be by Diirer may well have been turned 
into one ostensibly by Griinewald. 

Signatures carry no authority in such instances. Countless 
works are provided with Diirer's well-known monogram. This 
very feature has enabled modern research to establish the fact of 
forgery. Guy Isnard, a Chief Commissioner of the Paris Police, 
relates a case in point. He states: 'In the spring of 1955 an 
American art collector called upon the Paris police to investigate 
the forgery of a painting alleged to be by Diirer. "You're in 
luck", the Commissioner told him. "That picture is really old!" 
A Diirer after all, thought the collector, with a sigh of relief. But 
he had not noticed, in the first flush of his delight, the officer's 
serious expression. The latter went on: "Well, you haven't been 
so exceptionally lucky as all that, you know. The picture is only 
a copy, probably by Imhoff, of one by Diirer. It's a very good 
imitation, though. You've only paid, at worst, twice its value. 
If it had been a modern copy, you'd have lost far more." The 
American, wincing at the hateful word "copy", demanded ex- 
citedly: "What about the signature, then? That AD, and the 
date 1508, in the bottom corner? Isn't that a clear proof of the 
authenticity of the work? You've just told me it's 'really old', 
haven't you?" "Unfortunately," retorted the officer, "It's an 
unmistakable proof that the picture's an imitation. We had that 
monogram examined by a well-known expert. Chemical analysis 
showed quite conclusively that the initials had been superimposed 
on the varnish, not the other way about. They had been put 
there by someone else after the painting had been completed. 
Albrecht Diirer never signed that picture." ' 



23 



CHAPTER 6 



Wotks forged as by Gtiinewald, 
Holbein and Cranach 



QUESTIONS OF AUTHENTICITY are constantly being raised in 
connection with works by other great German painters. In 1949 
six drawings in the style of Matthias Griinewald (c. 1470-1528) 
were found in a rubbish-heap at Gisselberg, near Marburg-on- 
the-Lahn. They were regarded by some experts as indubitable 
originals, by others as old copies and by others, again, as modern 
imitations. After the first natural excitement over the discovery 
had died down, it had to be acknowledged that the drawings 
were in fact copies, technically forgeries. But since they had been 
found by chance they had not been prepared and distributed 
with any fraudulent intention. 

The numerous works of Hans Holbein the Younger (1497- 
1543) include many which have been thought spurious. Two 
views are current of one of his masterpieces, the 'Jakob Meyer 
Madonna', in the Dresden Galley. It was at first considered to 
be by his own hand. But in 1871 intensive comparison with the 
Darmstadt version showed the latter to be the original. It was 
assumed that the copy at Dresden had been executed in 1621 by 
Bartholomaus Sarburgh. The work was acquired by Marie de* 
Medici, who had been looking in vain for the original. After her 
death the copy reached Venice by way of Amsterdam. It was 
bought from the Delfino family in 1743, by Count Francesco 
Algarotti for Augustus III of Saxony. It thus became known as 
the 'Dresden Madonna' and, since it was described as an original 
work by Holbein, a forgery. 

Recent comprehensive exhibitions of art forgeries revealed a 
case in which a portrait alleged to be by Holbein had been 
fabricated. It was based on two separate originals by the master. 
The face was taken from the important work, dated 1543, depict- 



WORKS FORGED AS BY GRUNEWALD, HOLBEIN AND CRANACH 

ing Duke Anthony the Good of Lorraine, and the hands from the 
1541 portrait of an unknown man in the Vienna Gallery. The 
procedure was one in high favour with forgers. But it can be 
detected with rektive ease by comparison with the originals. 

The paintings of Lukas Cranach the Elder (1472-1 553) were an 
especially happy hunting-ground for forgers. Hans Leonhard 
Schaufelein (1480-1540) personally boasted of having more 
successfully imitated Cranach than he copied any other painter 
except Diirer. F. W. Rohrich (1787-1843) is also regarded as a 
typical counterfeiter of works purporting to be by Cranach. He 
was a German-Swiss who turned out copy after copy of the same 
work, all most remarkably faithful to the effect of the original. 
About forty copies of the portrait by Cranach of a Saxon duchess 
and her son are ascribed to Rohrich. They reproduced the old 
master's technique with flawless accuracy and were provided 
with Cranach's signature. Consequently, they found their way, 
as originals by Diirer's famous contemporary, into leading 
collections. One hung for several decades in the Hamburg Art 
Gallery before being transferred, as of questionable authenticity, 
to private ownership. Another of the same series belongs to the 
Bavarian State Collection at Munich. It has been shown in 
several big exhibitions of art forgeries in Holland, Germany and 
France as characteristic of works falsely attributed to the artist. 



25 



CHAPTER 7 



The much admired Bust by Bastianini 



THE FIRST world-wide sensation in the domain of art forgery was 
caused by the 'Benivieni Bust Scandal' (see illustration). This 
lifesize work, depicting a man of advanced age, astonished 
people by its naturalism. Every wrinkle in the clean-shaven face, 
every vein, was reproduced with absolute truth to appearance. 
The eyes were directed upwards. The chest and shoulders were 
represented as clothed in a simple Renaissance garment. The 
headgear also recalled that period. Its fold was clearly inscribed, 
in Renaissance lettering, with the name HIERMUS BENIVIENI. In 
consequence of this reference to the Florentine poet and philo- 
sopher Benivieni (1453-1542), highly popular with his con- 
temporaries, the work became known as the 'Benivieni Bust*. 

It was acquired in 1864 by a collector in Paris, M. de Nolivos, 
from the Florentine dealer in antiquities Antonio Freppa, for 
about 700 French francs. The newly discovered work became 
well-known in the following year on its exhibition in the Paris 
Hall of Industry. It was praised by the entire Press as the out- 
standing item of the exhibition and a masterpiece of the Florentine 
Quattrocento. Paul Mantz wrote in the Gazette des Beaux Arts: 
*A11 the subtlety of the Italian character is disclosed in this ex- 
pressive countenance. It is marked both by good humour and 
deeply-felt experience. The creases at the lips, the precociously 
furrowed brow and the intent gaze betoken amazing vitality. 
Every feature bears the stamp of a striking personality. We have 
no other portrait of Benivieni. But we could swear that this is a 
good likeness. The age of the subject and above all the style of 
execution suggest that the work should be dated at earliest in 
the last years of the fifteenth century or preferably at the beginning 
of the sixteenth/ 

26 



THE MUCH ADMIRED BUST BY BASTIANINI 

The bust attracted attention and admiration far beyond the 
frontiers of France. The German periodical Plastic Arts published 
a photograph of it. The accompanying article asserted it to be 
the portrait of a thinker, represented with all the simplicity, 
honesty and captivating naturalism of fifteenth-century Florentine 
art, as innocent of false idealism as of the precise documentation 
of a police-warrant, Not a fold, the writer continued, of the 
deeply-wrinkled face was suppressed, and yet the brow was un- 
mistakably the seat of reflection, the eyes the mirrors of the soul 
and the mouth eloquent of personality. 

Efforts were naturally made by historians to identify the 
artist. Several important Renaissance sculptors were suggested. 
The names of Donatello, Verrocchio, Desiderio da Settignano, 
Mino da Fiesole, Antonio Rossellino and Benedetto da Maiano 
were mentioned. Mantz's attribution of the bust to Lorenzo di 
Credi (1459-1537) found particular favour. Though referred to 
as 'Pictor Florentinus*, di Credi is also known to have been a 
sculptor. Some of his drawings showed affinity with the style of 
the 'Benivieni bust'. He was stated by Vasari to have produced 
a portrait of Benivieni, 'his friend'. So the supposition could 
hardly be evaded that the bust was in fact the contemporary 
portrait of the poet mentioned by Vasari and believed lost. 

The great interest aroused in the bust by these investigations 
and ascriptions was proved by proceedings at the auction of M. 
de Nolivos* collection at the Hotel Drouot, Paris, in January 
1866. A stubborn contest for the possession of this mysterious 
work developed between Baron de Triquetti, acting for the Due 
d'Aumale, and Count de Nieuwekerke, Director of the Imperial 
Museums of the metropolis. The latter eventually bid highest 
and secured the prize. Its purchase price amounted to 13,250 
francs, augmented to about 14,000 by the usual subsidiary 
charges. The figure of only 6000 francs disbursed by the French 
Government for the Venus of Milo, discovered in 1820, indicates 
the high value placed upon the Italian production. 

It came to be regarded as one of the chief items in the Italian 
Department of Sculpture and indeed in the Louvre as a whole. 
The work was given a place of honour among the masterpieces 
of the Florentine Renaissance, close to Cellini's 'Nymph', the 
female portrait bust by Desiderio da Settignano and Michel- 
angelo's celebrated 'Slave'. But the Louvre's new acquisition 



FORGERS, DEALERS, EXPERTS 

was not destined to enjoy unanimous approval for long. On the 
1 5th December 1 867 an article in the Cbronique des Arts by Antonio 
Freppa disclosed some remarkable facts. He affirmed that the 
supposed Italian Renaissance masterpiece so proudly exhibited in 
the Louvre was not three hundred years old but only three. He 
explained that he himself had ordered the bust in 1864 from the 
sculptor Giovanni Bastianini of Fiesole and paid him 350 francs 
for it. Freppa went on to assert that M. de Nolivos had bought 
the work for twice as much, not as 'an antique*, but 'on the 
evidence of his own eyes*. The antiquary further alleged that 
the presumed bust of Benivieni in reality portrayed a tobacco 
factory hand named Giuseppe Bonaiuti. This man, it appeared, 
had since died. But a number of his fellow-workers had stated 
that they recognised his features in the bust. 

The article attracted attention in circles far beyond those 
concerned with art in France. But the Louvre management did 
not consider it necessary to investigate Freppa's data and clear 
the matter up by ascertaining the facts. The Florentine dealer's 
'revelations' were received with a tolerant smile, as pure in- 
ventions, inspired by vexation at having sold the bust at such a 
low figure. It was said that Freppa, in a frenzy of envy at the 
price obtained in France, almost twenty times that which he 
himself had charged, had conspired with friends, by way of 
vengeance, to prove a genuine antique a 'forgery*. But the 
Florentine group indignantly repudiated this insinuation and the 
sculptor Bastianini himself entered the fray. Controversy raged 
in the newspapers between the Italian and the French 'fronts*. 

The French sculptor Eug&ne Louis Lequesne (b. 1815) offered 
to knead BastianinFs clay for him 'for the rest of his life* if the 
Italian could produce evidence that he had executed the bust. 
Lequesne published in the Paris Patrie his own 'evidence* for the 
attribution of the work to a Florentine Old Master. Bastianini 
replied in the Gasgetta di Firen^e. Debate on the question of 
origin assumed international proportions. 

Lequesne wrote: 'The bust was produced by an antique 
process, the clay being pressed into a mould and modelled 
subsequently. Seams are visible on both shoulders and on the 
back of the neck, where sections of the mould came together. 
The hair also shows traces of the liquid clay with which the 
interior of the mould was smeared/ 

28 



THE MUCH ADMIRED BUST BY BASTIANINI 

Bastianini commented: 'The bust was modelled freehand, 
leaving as much of it hollow as possible. The cast was taken 
after firing and that is why the seams and slip show.' 

Lequesne objected: 'On one of the curls on the left side of the 
head the clay was insufficiently bound in and a small piece 
dropped off. The place still shows the original fingerprint by 
which it was replaced.* 

To this Bastianini merely retorted: 'Aren't fingers always used 
for modelling ?* 

Lequesne: 'The clay differs from that used in Italy to-day. It 
has become porous with age.* 

Bastianini: 'What makes you say that ? Fll send you a specimen 
of the clay ordinarily used here. Neither chemically nor from the 
artistic point of view does it differ from that used in the "Beni- 
vieni bust"/ 

Lequesne: 'Patina was applied to the surface by tobacco smoke.' 

Bastianini: 'Well, as you haven't guessed my method, I'm not 
giving any secrets away. But I shall be happy to apply the same 
patina to any terracotta you like. I can hardly believe that you 
use tobacco smoke for the purpose in France. One dealer in 
antiquities, at least, smiled grimly when he heard of it/ 

One of Bastianini's friends, Dr Foresi of Florence, published 
an account of the 'Benivieni' scandal entitled 'The Tower of 
Babel'. In Paris J. Charvet issued a pamphlet headed 'The Ass in 
the Lion's Skin, A Florentine Hoax'. 

The general public was amused by this quarrel between experts. 
But the Louvre management could no longer shirk the issue. 
Count de Nieuwekerke seemed quite convinced that the work 
was a genuine antique. He repeatedly affirmed that no nineteenth- 
century artist could possibly have executed so perfect a master- 
piece and that there could be no question of a sculptor like 
Bastianini being responsible for it. In private conversation he 
declared that he would be willing to pay the Italian no less than 
i j,ooo francs for a new companion piece of equal merit. 

Bastianini, hearing of the Count's offer through the Press, 
agreed enthusiastically to undertake this solution of the problem. 
In a letter addressed to Dr Foresi and subsequently published in 
La Na^ione he issued a challenge in his turn to the Director, who 
had not yet decided to make his own offer officially. Bastianini 
stated that as soon as he received it he would not for the time 

29 



FORGERS, DEALERS, EXPERTS 

being invite the Count to visit his studio but would propose the 
following arrangement: 

'Deposit your 1 5,000 francs in safe hands. We will then choose 
between us a jury, not composed entirely of Frenchmen, and I 
will for my part guarantee to make a bust, for 3000 francs, as 
good as the "Benivieni". As for the other 12,000 francs, I will 
undertake to meet you half way, since you are one of the pillars 
of the Second Empire, by modelling for you busts of the Twelve 
Caesars at the price of 1000 francs apiece. 

GIOVANNI BASTIANINI 
Florence, 1 5th February 1868.' 

This announcement gave the Count his last chance of emerging 
from the affair with honour. But he still remained silent. Then, 
on the 29th June 1868, Bastianini died, aged only thirty-seven. 
No doubt people interested in the Louvre were still hoping that 
the bust might continue to be considered Renaissance work. But 
the question had been settled even before Bastianini's death. The 
subject of this prolonged and fervent dispute had been quietly 
removed from the Renaissance Room at the Louvre and banished 
to a cupboard in the apartment housing the Sauvageot Collection. 

It was only then, after the artist's decease, that more was 
learned about the man whose works so much resembled those of 
the great Florentine sculptors and whose 'Benivieni' had been 
put on exhibition among the masterpieces of Michelangelo. 
Bastianini, who was born on the iyth September 1830, had 
developed at an early age, like so many of his contemporaries, a 
deep interest in Quattrocento portrait sculpture. After 1848 he 
produced mainly more or less free imitations of old works, 
which were marketed by Antonio Freppa. The dealer did not 
sell them as 'antique originals*. Nor did Bastianini deliberately 
give them an appearance of age. In fact, he sometimes modelled 
direct from nature. Nevertheless, a number of his busts were 
taken for Renaissance works. They became well known only 
after the 'Benivieni' dispute. 

The Edouard Andre Collection in Paris, for example, cata- 
logued its 'Singing Girl' as a product of the Italian Renaissance 
until Bastianini was proved to have executed the piece. 

The figure represented a charming young Florentine in a 
brocaded dress, holding the score of her song. Traces of old 

3 



THE MUCH ADMIRED BUST BY BASTIANINI 

gilding and paint were visible. As in the former case, people 
continued to insist, when it was suggested that the statue might 
be modern, on its Renaissance origin. The sculptor Paul Dubois, 
Director of the School of Fine Art since 1878, stated quite 
positively that no contemporary artist could have entered so 
completely into the spirit of the Quattrocento. His views were 
accepted the more readily as he had made a prolonged study, in 
Italy itself, of early Renaissance sculpture. 

Bastianini also made a statuette which he called 'Giovanna 
Albizzi'. The origin of this work is known. A joiner glued and 
bolted together a number of pieces of worm-eaten wood. Then 
an assistant carved the result roughly into the shape of a woman. 
Bastianini completed the figure, coated it with a paste concocted 
out of plaster, tow and rags of cloth and then painted and gilded 
it in sixteenth-century style. His creation, when put on the 
market, elicited general admiration as an "antique*. A French 
collector bought it for a large sum. But neither his name nor the 
price paid is mentioned in the account given of this affair. 

A portrait bust of Girolamo Savonarola, the famous Dominican 
preacher of San Marco, had a fate similar to that of the 'BenivienF 
bust. This work, copied from a medallion of the period, was 
purchased by a Florentine dealer, Vincenzo Capponi, for 640 lire. 
He sold it for 10,000, making a profit of no less than 9360 lire. 
The secret of its manufacture came out when the bust was 
exhibited at the Palazzo Riccardi in Florence in 1864 as a genuine 
product of the Renaissance. Bastianini was identified as the 
artist responsible. The disappointed owners, Banti and Costa, 
presented the bust in 1869 to die Monastery of San Marco, which 
had then just been rebuilt as a museum. The work was given a 
place of honour in the cell formerly occupied by its subject when 
Prior of the establishment. 

Another bust of Savonarola by Bastianini was acquired in 1896 
by the South Kensington Museum of London and exhibited as 
an example of neo-Renaissance nineteenth-century sculpture. 
The same Museum, now the Victoria and Albert, had previously 
bought, as original works of the Florentine Renaissance, three 
other pieces by Bastianini. A sum of 80 was paid in 1857, in 
Paris, for a marble relief depicting the Madonna and Child, with 
cherubs' heads. It was at first attributed to a member of Dona- 
tello's circle, Antonio Rossellino (1427-78). In 1861 a portrait 



FORGERS, DEALERS, EXPERTS 

bust in terracotta, believed to be by an unknown Florentine of 
the Renaissance period, was purchased from the Gigli Campana 
Collection for 60. In 1863 the same amount was disbursed by 
the same museum for a similar work. 

The London authorities continued to show great interest in 
Bastianini's productions. In 1869 a plaster cast of the 'Benivieni 
bust* was acquired and by way of comparison an equally in- 
formative bust of a certain Baron von Jenisen. In 1891 they 
bought the wax model of the marble relief obtained in 1857 (see 
illustration). It only cost them about 5, though 80 had been 
paid for the alleged Renaissance Madonna. Nothing could be 
more revealing of the enormous difference in the values ascribed 
to old and new, genuine and spurious works respectively. 

The inevitable question arises whether Bastianini, the creator 
of the 'Benivieni bust', should be regarded as an artist or a 
swindler. It is usual to modify in his case the severity with which 
a forger is normally judged by calling attention to his outstanding 
professional skill and describing him as 'an aristocrat among 
forgers*. He is admitted on other counts to have been a remark- 
able sculptor and genuine artist, whose works were rendered 
forgeries through no fault of his own but simply owing to lack 
of discernment by specialists. Respectable museums like the 
Victoria and Albert did not hesitate to acquire Bastianini's pro- 
ductions and exhibit them as specimens of nineteenth century art. 

In books on Italian sculpture Bastianini is referred to as the 
successor of Bartolini. Wilhelm Lubke, in his History of Sculpture 
(1880) laments that 'the development of gifts of such high 
promise was cut short by sudden death*. He recognises the 
'absolute mastery* of the 'Benivieni bust*. Giuseppe Delogu also 
praises Bastianini, in a book well-known in Germany, for his 
consummate technique and 'fine realism*. 

Friedrich Winkler stresses Bastianini's astonishing ability to 
adapt his style to that of earlier centuries. He asserts, writing in 
1930, that 'even to-day, after nearly a hundred years, it is very 
difficult to see that Bastianini*s best counterfeit portrait busts are 
nineteenth-century work*. 

It is clear that Bastianini intended no deception. On the 
contrary, like a true artist of his day, he was inspired by earlier 
works to do the same kind of thing himself. He was not con- 
cerned, in his choice and treatment of material, to give the 

32 




3 

Albrecht Diirer (1471-1528) self 
portrait. Limewood panel, 67 by 
49 cm, Old Pinakothek, Munich. 
This painting was hung in the 
Nurernburg Town Hall from the 
sixteenth century until 1799 when it 
was lent to the painter Kiiffner, who 
made a copy from it and returned the 
copy in place of the original. 



4 

Albrecht Diirer, self portrait. For- 
gery by Wolfgang Kuffner (1799). 
Limewood panel, 67 by 49 cm, 
Diirer's house, Nuremburg. The 
forgery was discovered in 1805 when 
the original, which came up for sale 
in Munich, was bought for the royal 
collection. 



5 The Hare.' Oil painting after a drawing by Durer, 
probably by Hans Hoffman (d. 1591). Barberini 
Gallery, Rome. Durer's contemporaries and 
followers used his drawings for their paintings and 
for many years a number of these passed for 
originals by the Master. 




THE MUCH ADMIRED BUST BY BASTIANINI 

impression of an older production and so defraud purchasers. If 
this had been his purpose, he would certainly have destroyed his 
preliminary sketches and models. But he never did. He kept 
them and even sometimes presented them to public bodies. 

There are other cogent arguments against the theory that he 
consciously cheated. The question of financial gain is of decisive 
importance here. His prices remained well within the limits of 
those current for new work at the time. The man's fundamental 
decency is also evident in his answer to the enticing offer of 
Count de Nieuwekerke. Until then he had been obliged to earn 
his living more or less precariously by producing copies, imita- 
tions and creations of his own. But he refused to accept money 
for nothing. If fraud had been his object, he could have easily 
made faithful reproductions of old works, giving them false 
signs of age, and thus dishonestly obtained large fees. 

Nor need the dealer Antonio Freppa be considered a swindler. 
His fifty per cent profit on the sale of the 'Benivieni bust' was 
nothing out of the way. If he had described it as old work he 
would naturally have charged a great deal more. The fact that 
he voluntarily disclosed the history of the bust also goes to show 
that he behaved quite honourably and correctly. 

Certain of Bastianini's works were only made to appear 
forgeries after experts had endowed them with an antiquity, an 
importance and consequently a value, for which there were no 
foundations in fact. The experts must not of course for this 
reason be regarded as swindlers, for they had merely been 
mistaken in their judgments. The case is really one of 'forgery 
without a forger'. 

The 'Benivieni bust* scandal was soon forgotten. Those 
concerned had every reason to hush it up. Other scandals and 
lawsuits in the artistic field soon crowded out the fuss over 
Bastianini. It was not until 1952 that the 'False or True?' exhi- 
bition, shown first in Holland and then in Switzerland, Germany 
and the United States, reminded people of the revelations in 
connection with the Florentine sculptor. 

The object of the exhibition was to bring to light the funda- 
mental distinction between old and new, genuine and spurious 
works of art. Expert and layman alike were to be shown charac- 
teristic examples of imitation, contrasted with original creative 
products, and thus improve their understanding of art as a whole, 
D 33 



FORGERS, DEALERS, EXPERTS 

In pursuance of this aim the 'Benivieni bust* was placed side 
by side with that of Baron von Jenisen, executed by Bastianini 
at about the same time. Though the external features of the two 
works, the facial expressions, poses and clothing, were those of 
two utterly different human beings, the style was unmistakably 
the same. The treatment was surprisingly similar in the identically 
intent eyes, slightly incongruous placing of the nose, thick, down- 
drawn underlip and, most noticeably, in the wrinkles and cons- 
ciously contrived naturalism of the hair. There is also some 
similarity in the indication of dress. Bastianini does not seem 
to have tried to reproduce the typical Florentine robe of the 
Renaissance, with its many folds, in the Uenivieni bust*. This 
feature appears to have been taken direct from the living model 
and to represent the overall habitually worn by the factory hand 
Bonaiuti. 

A careful study of this bust at the present time, after the lapse 
of nearly a century, shows that it bears only an outward resem- 
blance to Renaissance work. The unerring sense of style charac- 
teristic of the period is missing. It is replaced by a certain 
modernity of feeling which suggests imitation. The strict linear 
formality of the fifteenth-century Florentines is absent. The 
casual manner of Bastianini's own day, very near to naturalism, 
can be traced. It seems incredible to-day that such eminent 
experts were so completely misled. Nineteenth-century works of 
art can of course now be seen with more objectivity than was 
possible to contemporary critics whose familiarity with such 
products rendered them to some extent blind to the differences 
between past styles and those of their own time. The relation 
of Bastianini's art to former practice and that of his period is 
strikingly clarified by a comparison of certain of his reliefs of 
the Madonna with Renaissance originals, a comparison which 
could only be made after the exhibition of art forgeries had been 
opened. In 1857, when Freppa sold Bastianini's relief to the 
South Kensington Museum, the authorities there were convinced 
that it was genuine Renaissance work, probably by Antonio 
Rossellino (see illustration). They were only enlightened as to 
its true provenance when die 'Benivieni bust' scandal broke out. 
In 1891 the wax model of the relief (see illustration) was acquired 
in the knowledge that it was a preliminary study by the artist for 
the work in marble* 

34 



THE MUCH ADMIRED BUST BY BASTIANINI 

Subsequent investigations proved that he had copied an old 
fragment of a relief by Desiderio da Settignano (1428-64), 
preserved in the Museum of Fine Art at Lyons (see illustration). 

Bastianini resorted to other Renaissance reliefs in order to 
supply, in his own version, the missing upper parts of his original. 
The wax model appears at first sight to be unquestionably a 
faithful copy, though a certain effeminacy, inseparable from the 
material as from the character of any imitation, cannot be denied. 
This trait appears very noticeably in the marble relief. 

When the original is compared by a modern observer with the 
imitation, which has even the outward aspect of comparatively 
recent work, the ascription of it to a member of Donatello's 
circle becomes inexplicable. For the style as well as the material 
gives a strong impression of late date. The exquisite line, 
especially that of the head of the Madonna, bowed over the Child, 
was reproduced to some extent in the wax model, but not in the 
marble. Nor does the latter convey the Child's nestling posture. 
Bastianini's work also lacks the highly stylised yet natural fall of 
the drapery in the original. The faces and hands in the copy 
show the typical nineteenth-century sculptor's preoccupation 
with the living model. The cherubs* heads have the naturalistic 
expression of those turned out by Bastianini and his contem- 
poraries in imitation of the Florentine portraits of children. But 
they do not suggest, as do those of Desiderio and artists of his 
period, messengers from heaven. 

Mark Twain once observed that modern copies were more 
agreeable to look at than originals by Old Masters. For imitations 
often substitute a pleasingly soft treatment, concentrated upon 
external effects, for the stern, uncompromising devotion to inner 
truth expressed by their models. Understanding of the art of, 
former times has to be cultivated by a slow process, on occasion 
not without effort. But an imitation requires no such trained 
study. As a rule it captivates the spectator at the first glance. 
Such is the explanation of the enthusiasm aroused by the *Beni- 
vieni bust* and Bastianini's Madonna relief. 



35 



CHAPTER 8 



The Renowned Sarcophagus of Cerveteri 



IT WAS NOT only connoisseurs who pricked up their ears at the 
revelations in die 'Benivieni 7 case. The extraordinarily high 
value placed upon the bust and the discussions about its authen- 
ticity had shown the art forgers how easily experts could be 
deceived and how difficult it might be to prove a work spurious. 
The recognition of these opportunities undoubtedly led to the 
production of further clever forgeries, among which the British 
Museum's Etruscan sarcophagus must be included. 

In 1873 the Museum was offered a sarcophagus which had 
been excavated at Cerveteri, site of the ancient Etruscan capital 

Such was the story told by the Roman dealer. The English 
experts believed him. They were enraptured by the size and 
beauty of the work, in terracotta, lavishly adorned with reliefs 
and surmounted by the figures of a man and woman. Its date 
was assumed to be about 500 B.C. The sarcophagus was duly 
acquired by the Museum and came to be regarded as constituting, 
together with related works in the Louvre and at the Villa of 
Pope Julius in Rome, an important item in the study of Etruscan 
civilisation. 

London critics were especially loud in their praises of the 
figures on the tomb, seated in an erect posture, with most 
naturalistically rendered features, full of life. But admiration of 
these artistic treasures was accompanied by certain doubts about 
the authenticity of a good many finds at Cerveteri. It was con- 
sidered that the sarcophagus might be a forgery. Resemblances 
to the Louvre sarcophagus, some details of which were similar, 
and inconsistencies in the inscriptions, gave some colour to the 
suspicions expressed. 

Archaeologists at the -site were taken aback by the discovery 

36 



THE RENOWNED SARCOPHAGUS OF CERVETERI 

that a local family, the Pinellis, displayed an amazing familiarity 
with the details of the alleged antiquities. The disquieting state- 
ment was made that Pietro Pinelli, the head of the family, was 
acquainted with the inscriptions on Etruscan bracelets in the 
Louvre. On further enquiries being made, a relative of Pietro 
confessed to having fabricated the bracelets in question. He 
readily explained how he had manufactured them in the 'Etruscan* 
style. A closer comparison of the Paris inscriptions with those 
of the London sarcophagus revealed such clear correspondences 
that the latter, too, had to be acknowledged as a modern copy. 
But as the Pinellis stoutly denied having had anything to do with 
it and no other clues to its provenance could be obtained, no 
definite conclusion on the subject was reached. 

Later on repeated rumours about the forgeries at Cerveteri 
became current. It was said that the London sarcophagus had 
been hacked in pieces by the brother of its manufacturer, buried 
at the site and the fragments then dug up under the eyes of 
delighted experts. But nothing more precise could be ascertained. 
In 1935, sixty years after the sarcophagus had been bought, it 
was quietly removed from its place of exhibition at the Museum. 
This step amounted to official admission of the forgery. 



37 



CHAPTER 9 



The Tiara of Saitaphernes 



AT THE END of February 1896 the Russian art dealer Schapschelle 
Hochman of Ortschakov exhibited in Vienna a remarkable 
collection of antique goldsmiths* work. It included earrings and 
fingerrings, hornbooks, necklaces and, largest and finest of all, 
a ceremonial headdress in the form of an antique tiara (see 
illustration). The dealer stated that all the items were found in 
the ruins of the former Greek colony at Olbia on the Black Sea, 
near Odessa. 

The collection was offered, through the Vienna agents Szy- 
manski and Anton Vogel, to the Imperial Court Museum. The 
pieces, especially the tiara, were inspected by a number of 
connoisseurs and collectors, such as the archaeologists Benndorf, 
Bohrmann and Schneider and the collectors Count Wilczek and 
Baron Rothschild. All were convinced that the items were 
genuine and of exceptional value. But the Director of the 
Museum, Bruno Buchner, felt the gravest doubts. He con- 
sidered it highly suspicious that all the damaged parts of the 
articles were to be found in a kind of pattern at unobtrusive points 
on the flat background to the reliefs, whereas the latter had 
escaped injury. The tiara, accordingly, did not find a purchaser 
in Vienna. 

The British Museum in London returned a negative reply to 
an enquiry by letter. Vogel and Szymanski then, in March, 
betook themselves to Paris. Each item of the collection was 
there thoroughly examined. The tiara, in particular, was inspected 
by two experts, M. A. Kaempfen, Director of the National 
Museums and of the Louvre, and M. E. Hron de Villefosse, 
Keeper of the Greco-Roman Department of the Louvre. The 
crown was found to be 17*5 cm in height. It was of pure gold 

38 



THE TIARA OF SAITAPHERNES 

and weighed 460 grams. The shape was that of a tiara, the head- 
dress of Persian kings, afterwards adopted by the Popes. The 
oval in this case was divided by embossed ornament into two 
friezes in relief, with many figures. The lower and narrower ring 
showed scenes of Scythian life, freely chased. The broad upper 
band constituting the chief decoration illustrated the Iliad, in- 
cluding the episode of the quarrel between Agamemnon and 
Achilles over the captive Briseis. An inscription between the 
two friezes read in translation: 'The Senate and People of Olbia 
to the Great Invincible Saitaphernes." The crown had therefore 
apparently been presented by the Greek colonial city of Olbia, 
as tribute, to the barbarian king. The article would have to be 
dated, if manufactured in the settlement, about 200 B.C. 

The Paris experts had no doubt of its authenticity. Further 
research only confirmed their opinion. It was discovered from 
other sources that the city of Olbia had in fact paid tribute to 
Saitaphernes. The inscription on the tiara corresponded with that 
on a column presented to the commander in question. Moreover, 
earlier finds in Olbia tombs showed remarkable resemblances in 
subject and style to those of the articles in the collection. These 
other items, however, were in Russia and not therefore easily 
accessible to West European observers. 

In these circumstances it was not surprising that Paris decided 
to acquire the 'priceless' tiara for the Louvre without further ado. 
The excitement was such that no more enquiries were made 
about its origin and the details of its excavation. It was feared, 
perhaps, that prolonged tests and investigations might arouse 
interest in Russia and raise the question of pre-emptive rights in 
that country. Negotiations with the Viennese agents were put 
through in some haste and without publicity. A price of 200,000 
francs was paid for the tiara. 

The purchasers did not have to await the sanction of the 
Chamber of Deputies for so considerable an expenditure. The 
money was supplied privately by two patrons of art, Corroyer 
and Theodore Reinach. Anton Vogel signed the receipt and left 
Paris immediately. It was later revealed that he turned over 
86,000 francs to Hochman, 40,000 francs to Szymanski and kept 
74,000 francs 'commission* for himself. 

On the ist April 1896 the tiara of Saitaphernes was given a 
place of honour, as the legitimate property of the Louvre, in the 

39 



FORGERS, DEALERS, EXPERTS 

Antiquities Department. The new acquisition attracted little 
attention from the public. A good deal of criticism, mostly of 
an adverse kind, was expressed by connoisseurs, especially abroad. 
In May Professor Wesselovsky of the University of St Petersburg, 
who was in a position to judge, being familiar with antiquities 
found in Russia, described the tiara as a typical modern produc- 
tion of the forgers active at Ortschakov. He mentioned other 
similar forgeries in museums at Odessa, St Petersburg itself and 
Cracow. A little earlier the Munich archaeologist Adolf Furt- 
wangler had committed himself to the view that the tiara was a 
forgery. He supported this opinion with detailed arguments 
before the year was out, writing of the work as a 'forgery so 
tasteless that it could only excite disgust'. Considerations of the 
technique, style and subject-matter of the production proved it 
to be fraudulent. The reddish-brown coating found on genuine 
pieces was absent. The tone of the gold was characteristically 
modern. The style was a mixture of those of many periods, had 
no relation whatever to the antique and could not be anything 
but contemporary. The garments of the figures were not worn 
in the ancient fashion, their faces and gestures were not those of 
former times and everything about the tiara suggested modern 
melodrama. The vessels beside the funeral pile were of the 
present, not the past, as were also the clumsy incompetence of 
the representations of the human form and the lack of feeling for 
correct proportion. Furtwangler drew attention to a number of 
models used by the modern manufacturer, such as the Tamen 
necklace, objects found in tombs at Kertsch and Nikopol, South 
Italian vase-paintings and a silver dish of late Roman workman- 
ship, the so called 'Shield of Scipio' (see illustration). The 
German scholar also found the Homeric reference and its repre- 
sentation suspicious features of the tiara. Nor could the Winds, 
those formidable deities of the ancient world, be rendered as 
childish figures except by modern misunderstanding of them. 

Other experts agreed with Furtwangler's convincing argu- 
ments. In August 1896, at a congress of Russian archaeologists 
in Riga, Professor Stern, Director of the Odessa Museum, de- 
clared the tiara to be a clever forgery. The brothers Hochman 
were alleged to have established a workshop which manufactured 
not only the crown in question but also another on exhibition in 
Cracow. These statements attracted much attention among art 

40 




6 Bust of Benivieni by Giovanni 
Bastianini (1864). Terracotta, Louvre, 
Paris. The bust was acquired by the 
Louvre in 1866 as an original work 
by Lorenzo di Credi. One year 
later it was discovered to be a piece 
of contemporary sculpture. 



7 'Virgin and Child/ Marble relief by Desiderso 
di Settignano (1428-64). Musee des Beaux 
Arts, Lyons. Giovanni Bastianini in the 
nineteenth century, used this work as a 
source for his imitations. 





8 'Virgin and Child 1 by Giovanni Bastianini (1860). 
Wax, Victoria and Albert Museum, London. The 
work was acquired by the museum in 1891 as an 
example of the derivation of new works from Renais- 
sance originals. 



9 'Virgin and Child' by Giovanni Bastianini. 
Marble, Victoria and Albert Museum, London. 
The work was bought as an authentic Antonio 
Rosellini and later discovered to be a forgery 
by Bastianini. 




THE TIARA OF SAITAPHERNES 

experts throughout the world. An offer to the British Museum of 
objects recently found at Olbia was peremptorily refused. 

Paris at first, intelligibly enough, made no comment. The 
Chamber had not yet sanctioned the outlay on the tiara. If such 
sanction was withheld, those who had so generously advanced 
the funds required would be seriously embarrassed. The authori- 
ties, in declining to admit they could have been mistaken, re- 
minded those who referred to foreign criticism that the fox in the 
fable had said the grapes he couldn't reach were sour. 

The supporters of the Louvre were pleased when Kieseritsky, 
Keeper of the Department of Goldsmiths' Work at the Hermitage 
Gallery in St Petersburg, declared the tiara to be genuine. The 
fact that he later withdrew this opinion was hushed up in Paris. 
Further unpalatable news was to come. In the spring of 1897 
Schapschelle Hochman was charged with the sale of forgeries and 
a goldsmith named Ruchomovsky was proved to have manu- 
factured articles very similar to the tiara. He, however, repudiated 
the 'undeserved honour' of being held responsible for the tiara 
itself. French experts such as Villefosse, Reinach, Michon and 
others tirelessly laboured in 'the cause of truth* and still main- 
tained that the crown was genuine. It remained at the Louvre. 
The cost was eventually sanctioned by the Chamber. 

The tiara of Saitaphernes continued on exhibition as a pre- 
Christian work for seven years. But the debate on its origin and 
authenticity went on. Then the storm broke. In a few weeks 
what Furtwangler and other specialists had suspected turned out 
to be true. 

On the ijth March 1903 a Montmartre artist named Elina 
Mayence was charged with forging paintings purporting to be by 
Henri Pilles. Mayence boasted that he had also made the much- 
disputed tiara. The statement became headline news throughout 
the world, which was just what he wanted. His wild lie had broken 
the uncanny silence about the alleged Scythian tiara and raised 
anew the question of its genuine or spurious character. The Press 
took the matter up and started a search for potential witnesses. 
Intense public interest was aroused. Boys went about the streets 
singing, to the tune of a popular song of the day; 

Ifs the tiara, tiara, tiara, 
the tiara we want! 



FORGERS, DEALERS, EXPERTS 

Crowds besieged the work in the Louvre. On the i9th and zist 
March an observer is said to have counted 30,000 of them. On 
the 23rd Le Matin published a letter from the Russian jeweller 
Lifschiu, a resident of Paris. He declared that he had personally 
watched his 'best friend Ruchomovsky' at work on the tiara. He 
added that the goldsmith in question had taken eight months over 
the job in 1895-6 and received some 2000 roubles for it. He 
insisted on the perfect good faith of his friend, who had known 
nothing of the projected swindle and false attribution. His 
statements were shortly afterwards confirmed in a letter from a 
Russian woman living in Paris, Mme Nageborg-Malkine, She 
had spoken to the artist a few months previously. The "poor 
man, who had undertaken such an unusual task, so open to mis- 
construction* had told her that his 'antique' was in the Louvre 
and that he didn't know what to do about it. 

Paris was divided into two camps, that of the 'Saitaphernists', 
who still contended that the work was genuine, and that of the 
'Antitiarists', convinced that it was spurious. The French experts 
continued their efforts to set public anxiety at rest. Andre Falice 
and Lalique, in particular, maintained that the crown must be 
ancient and genuine, since no artist, since Benvenuto Cellini, had 
been capable of producing such a thing. 

In some quarters a certain amount of amusement was caused 
by the news that Villefosse had been instructed by the Ministry 
of Education to remove the tiara 'provisionally' from its show- 
case 'in order to submit it to the most searching examination'. 
The information was generally taken to mean that the Louvre 
had given up the struggle. As no official announcement was 
made, a daily newspaper directed its Russian correspondent to 
contact the mysterious goldsmith in Odessa and report the result. 
The following telegram, in large type, soon afterwards appeared 
in the Figaro. 

Odessa, 25.3.03. c The engraver Israel Ruchomovsky, 36 
Ouspenskaia Street, Odessa, states categorically that he produced 
the tiara in 1896 to the order of a person unknown, resident in 
Kertsch. Ruchomovsky is ready to come to Paris to prove his 
assertion on receipt of travelling expenses amounting to 1200 
francs.' 

This news caused an enormous sensation among those con- 

42 



THE TIARA OF SAITAPHERNES 

cerned. The Government itself could no longer decline to accede 
to the public demand for an investigation. Chaumi6, the Minister 
of Education, informed the Senate that an official enquiry would 
be held and its findings published. On the 28th March it was 
announced that Clermont-Ganneau, Member of the Institute and 
Professor at the College de France, had been put in charge of the 
investigation. Meanwhile the tiara would be withdrawn from 
exhibition and held under legal seal. 

Ruchomovsky reached Paris, by way of Warsaw and Berlin, 
on the 5th April. The greatest secrecy was observed, his room 
at the Central Hotel being booked in the name of Bardes. But 
the secret could not be kept. The hotel was besieged by in- 
quisitive persons who wanted to see the 'great Master' and obtain 
his autograph. He received tempting offers for appearances in 
public c on tour'. The American circus proprietor Barnum 
proclaimed that he would buy the tiara at the full cost paid, 
provided he was sold the 'real' forgery. 

Newspapers and magazines published details about Israel 
Ruchomovsky' s career. He was a White Russian Jew born at 
Mosyr in 1860 and came to Odessa in 1892, where he taught 
himself the goldsmith's craft, engraving and chasing. Later on 
his sons Jacob and Solomon assisted him in his work. He was 
said to have produced, among other things, a silver ecclesiastical 
vessel, together with some statues and plate. Verdicts on his 
skill varied between hymns to the 'greatest goldsmith since 
Benvenuto Cellini' and indignant censure of a swindler who had 
perpetrated the 'most scandalous forgery in art history'. 

The tiara became the craze of the moment. Innumerable copies 
of it, even in the form of sleeve-links, were offered for sale. 
Meanwhile a committee of experts studied the whole question 
behind closed doors. There seemed little chance of reaching an 
impartial conclusion. For the Louvre representatives took every 
opportunity to suggest that Ruchomovsky could not have been 
responsible. Clermont-Ganneau could only say, after weeks of 
cross-examining the goldsmith, that he found the Russian such 
a commonplace person, so lacking in intelligence and every sort 
of archaeological knowledge, as to be quite unreliable in his 
statements. 

Ruchomovsky was asked for 'proofs'. He provided them. His 
account of the matter was as follows. The tiara had been ordered 

43 



FORGERS, DEALERS, EXPERTS 

by a client, whose name he refused to give, as a gift to a Russian 
archaeologist in recognition of his long and distinguished career. 
The client had sent Ruchomovsky illustrated books to serve as 
a guide to the work. The goldsmith could not remember their 
exact titles. But he described the volumes in some detail and 
they were eventually traced. One was Antiquites de la Russie 
Meridionah by Tolstoy-Kondekof-Reinach, published in Paris in 
1891. Another was the RUder-atlas %ur Weltgeschlchte by Ludwig 
Weisser, published in Stuttgart in 1860. 

Ruchomovsky copied certain passages from the 'Victory of 
Constantine over Maxentius*, one of the Vatican frescoes designed 
by Raphael and executed by Giulio Romano, which was re- 
produced as an engraving in die German book. A drawing of the 
'Shield of Scipio* preserved in the Medal Room of the National 
Library of Paris was used by the goldsmith as a pattern for one 
of the chief groups of figures on the tiara, that representing the 
restoration to Achilles of the abducted slave Briseis. The scenes 
of Scythian life in the lower frieze were taken from the French 
manual. 

Without seeing the tiara again, Ruchomovsky described its 
execution in three separate sections, which he had afterwards 
soldered together. He also explained precisely how the signs of 
damage and age had been counterfeited. 

These statements were found to be perfectly accurate. The 
goldsmith was nevertheless required by the Louvre authorities to 
submit a 'conclusive proof by reconstructing part of the tiara 
without reference to the original. It has never been made dear 
whether Ruchomovsky thereupon executed the small copy at 
present in a private collection at Stuttgart, or other sections 
either retained by the Louvre or taken back by the artist to Russia. 
But in any case he performed the task satisfactorily and thereby 
proved the tiara to be a forgery. 

He had been treated in the same way as most other forgers, 
being first extolled as the 'hero of the hour', who had 'routed all 
the experts' and was a 'great artist*, only to be subsequently 
shunned as 'forger* and 'imitator*. Ruchomovsky returned in 
dudgeon to Russia, indignant with the Parisians who had given 
him such an uproarious welcome and then meanly deserted him. 
He proceeded to produce a number of works in mockery of the 
Paris 'tiara craze* and the deluded specialists. He made a 'Sai- 

44 



THE TIARA OF SAITAPHERNES 

taphernes of 1895*, seated on a sarcophagus and wearing the 
crown, with as counterpart a 'Saitaphernes of 1903' uncrowned 
and weeping, on his sarcophagus, while children played ball 
with his tiara. After these efforts nothing more was ever heard 
of him. 

The end of the long years of controversy was greeted with 
relief by those interested in art throughout the world. No one 
took seriously the attempts even then made to evade censure by 





M. K. MtRON Ot VILLEFOSSt 
M. M.O*MMi REINACH 



ROVKHOMOVftXI 



i. Caricature from le Figaro (1903). Israel Rwbomwsky proving that be 
was the maker of the Tiara of Saitapbernes 

maintaining that 'an old piece* had been fraudulently 'worked 
up'. The date of the tiara had to be advanced by 2100 years. But 
people were glad to find that the authorities were not ashamed 
of having been corrected and continued to display the tiara, like 
the 'Benivieni bust', as a remarkable imitation of ancient style by 
a modern artist. 

The *tiara of Saitaphernes* retained its name even after the 
forgery had been revealed. It was shown in a number of special 
exhibitions. In the imposing procession of art forgeries it was 

45 



FORGERS, DEALERS, EXPERTS 

generally regarded as a c royal piece', 'the best of them all*. No 
doubt the pure gold of Its material had a good deal to do with 
this verdict. The precious metal imparted a meretricious brilliance 
to the work. Nevertheless, its technical and artistic merits were 
duly recognised. 

The tiara showed no sign of the 'sentimental', tentative manner 
which can usually be detected in forgeries. Ruchomovsky had 
worked with conscious, untroubled pride. He would hardly 
have had the courage to undertake the task if he had ever dreamed 
that the result was going to set the greatest experts in the world 
by the ears. It cannot be denied that for many years, not only in 
France, many people were convinced that no one since Benvenuto 
Cellini had been capable of such perfection. 

Recognition of the imitative character of the work is facilitated 
for modern critics by its excellent 'state of preservation* from the 
start. The kind of damage a work has undergone is the first point 
a connoisseur considers when there is any question of its authen- 
ticity. It is relatively easy to see the difference between naturally 
and artificially induced injuries. Imitators and forgers generally 
place them at subordinate positions in order to enhance the value 
of the product. An arbitrary 'pattern* of damage often leads to 
the detection of a forgery. 

When a hitherto unknown work of art turns up, an expert first 
looks for parallels to it, which may afford clues to the time and 
place of origin and in the case of borrowed features may reveal 
imitation or forgery. Comparison of the tiara with similar 
original productions proved difficult, as they were for the most 
part only to be found in Russia. Many of these, however, are 
now known through books and articles. Some idea of the 
importance of that era in the last phase of antique art has recently 
been given, for instance, in a book by Tamara Talbot Rice. 
Illustrations in scientific works had already enabled Furtwangler 
to find surprising points of correspondence with the tiara and 
consequent proofs of its counterfeit nature. 

On Ruchomovsky's own showing he had utilised book- 
illustrations of details from the well-known Vatican fresco of the 
'Victory of Constantine*. But specialists had already discovered 
the relationship in question and pointed out that passages from 
a work of the sixteenth century A.D. could not have influenced 
one of the third century before the Christian era. This circum- 



THE TIARA OF SAITAPHERNES 

stance alone should have been enough to establish the fact of 
forgery. 

Further tell-tale resemblances to well-known original works 
can be traced in the scenes of Scythian life. Representations of 
horse-taming and pictures of other animals on the tiara come 
from the Nikopol (Ukraine) silver vase dating from about 400 B.C. 
This piece, being in Russia, may well have escaped the attention 
of the Paris experts. But it is hard to see how they can have 
remained ignorant of the tiara's derivations from the 'Shield of 
Scipio* in their own capital (see illustration). 




ii. Detail of an amphora from Nikopol used as a model for the frieze of 
Scythian scenes on the forged Tiara of Saitapbernes 

Style, however, affords the most important clue to the authen- 
ticity or spurious character of a work. In the tiara, though both 
general design and details are traced with an amazingly sure hand, 
the practised eye at once perceives the lack of personal feeling 
for form and structure. Several faults, never found in ancient 
originals, are apparent. For example, the stems of the vineleaves 
and grapes do not grow out naturally from their tendrils, which, 
again, are pieced together rather than rendered as organically 
extending. The folds of the garments do not fall naturally. Some 

47 



FORGERS, DEALERS, EXPERTS 

of the hands and feet are in the wrong position. Ignorance of 
anatomy is also evident in the representations of animals, which 
the ancients regularly delineated with astonishingly lifelike 
accuracy. 




Hi, A.mphora> silver, partly gilded^ from NfJkopoL The model for parts 
of the Tiara of Saitapbernes 

The tiara is beyond question an interesting work of art, quite 
apart from its aspect as a forgery. It proves that the skill of the 
old goldsmiths has not died out and that obscure workshops can 
still produce admirable specimens of the craft. The crown was 
conceived by the artist as a free imitation of the antique. It was 
only through a fraudulent dealer that it was presented as an 
original and thus became a forgery. 

In 1909 the Louvre nearly fell a victim to a third scandal in the 

48 



THE TIARA OF SAITAPHERNES 

world of art. The authorities were then about to purchase for 
125,000 francs a lunette in clay attributed to Andrea Verrocchio. 
Doubts about its authenticity arose while sanction for the 
expenditure was being awaited. In order to avoid a scandal, the 
work was returned to Italy. The manufacturer turned out to have 
been a certain Florentine with the strikingly suggestive name of 
Bonafede. A connoisseur paid him 14,000 francs for the piece, 
which would thus have realised nearly ten times the price through 
the intermediary of a dealer in Paris. It may have been the lesson 
learnt by the Louvre authorities in the case of the tiara that 
warned them not to purchase this particular forgery. 



49 



CHAPTER 10 



The Bust of Flora 



THE CASE of the bust of Flora in the Kaiser Friedrich Museum, 
Berlin, is one of the most baffling and therefore most discussed 
in the history of art forgery (see illustration). Extremely in- 
consistent statements about it are to be found even in modern 
literature on the subject. Some writers briefly dismiss the question 
of authenticity as having been thoroughly investigated and 
settled once for all in favour of the ancient and completely genuine 
character of the bust. Others describe it as one of the most 
remarkable and clever forgeries ever perpetrated. In these cir- 
cumstances it appears of importance to have a clear statement of 
the problem. 

The bust, depicting the goddess Flora, was acquired in the 
summer of 1909 by Wilhelm Bode in his capacity as General 
Manager of the Prussian Art Collections in Berlin. The material 
of this fine, lifesize work is purified wax. The height of the head 
is 22-5 cm and that of the entire work 66 cm. The back has been 
left unfinished, indicating that the bust was intended for a niche. 
The cast wax foundation was repeatedly coated by the artist with 
thin layers of the same material, which were painstakingly 
modelled and painted in mellow tones of water-colour, much of 
which is preserved on the reddish hair with its coloured wreath, 
the blue robe and white undergarment. The flesh tints, on the 
other hand, have been reduced to scanty traces of the under- 
painting, visible especially under the right arm. A warm, waxen 
tone of some subtlety has thus been produced. The work has 
suffered serious damage, both forearms having been broken off. 
Their placing, however, has survived sufficiently to enable the 
original attitude to be gauged. The purchaser was Murray Marks, 
the London art dealer, who found the bust, according to Bode, 

5 



THE BUST OF FLORA 

in a shop in King Street, where the work had been on view for 
some months at a moderate price. It was said to have been 
knocked down for a few pounds at a London auction in 1907, 
and thereafter to have come into a number of different hands. 
At one time the firm of Durlacher bought it for 150. Bode paid 
160,000 marks for it. This large sum seemed justified, as Bode 
considered the bust to be an original work by Leonardo da Vinci 
(1452-1519) or one of his closest collaborators. It was for this 
reason that the damage was discounted by the purchaser. 

Part of the missing right hand was found through the agency 
of a former owner, Mr Long, and acquired by the Berlin Museum 
in 1909. 

The Times was much vexed by this triumph of the dreaded 
competition of Germany in the international art market. The 
newspaper observed grimly that the case did little honour to 
British connoisseurship. Bode was intensely pleased with his 
acquisition. He extolled it as a 'work of the very first rank*, 
referred to the 'fascinating smile* of the goddess and pronounced 
'the modelling of the face and neck* to be 'as masterly as that of 
the Mona Lisa*. The report of the committee of experts appointed 
to express an opinion recommended the bust as 'one of the most 
outstanding additions* to the Berlin collections. In view of the 
many important acquisitions made by the museums of the capital 
under Bode*s guidance this was praise indeed. 

Amateurs of art, however, had little time to rejoice over the 
Director's discovery and Berlin*s new treasure. A few weeks 
after the purchase a dispute began, in the full glare of publicity, 
about the authenticity of the work. On the 23rd October 1909 
sensational revelations were made by The Times. Charles F. 
Cooksey, a Southampton art dealer and auctioneer, declared the 
bust of Flora to be an imitation and therefore a forgery. It had 
been manufactured, he said, by the sculptor Richard Cockle 
Lucas (1800-83), in the spring of 1846, to the special order of the 
London art dealer W. Buchanan. A painting in the possession of 
the latter had served Lucas as a guide to the work (see illustration). 

These statements were confirmed and supplemented in the 
Turlington Magazine and in communications to The Times on the 
1 2th and i3th November by the sculptor's son, Albert Diirer 
Lucas, then eighty-one years old. He wrote that a painting of 
the goddess Flora, which was also known as the 'Joconda*, had 



FORGERS, DEALERS, EXPERTS 

been brought to his father by a Captain Berdmore. It was an oil, 
either by Leonardo himself or one of his pupils. The bust was 
a reproduction of this picture in wax. Mr A. D. Lucas added that 
he himself, as a lad of eighteen, had helped his father to 'prepare 
the material for casting and assisted him personally with the 
painting of the flowers in the hair*. There was no reason to 
doubt this last statement, for the son was widely known as a 
flower painter. 

One of his friends in youth, Mr Thomas Whitburn, endorsed 
this account of the matter in letters published in the Daily Mail 
on the 2 8th October and in The Times on the nth November. 
He wrote: C I met Mr Richard Cockle Lucas in the British Museum 
... I remember quite well that he was then modelling a wax bust 
in his studio after a painting alleged to be by Leonardo.* A 
former maid also recalled the presence of the bust of Flora in 
Lucas's house. She affirmed that it had stood for decades on an 
open veranda. According to Mr Cooksey 'the signs of age in the 
bust and also the loss of the forearms are due to the fact that it 
stood for years in a garden, unprotected from the weather'. 

Lucas's son suggested that tangible evidence might be found 
that the bust was by his father. He stated that the latter was in 
the habit of packing unwanted material into wax casts in order 
to reinforce their stability. A. D. Lucas advised the still in- 
credulous Berlin authorities to investigate the interior of the bust, 
where they would probably discover the materials mentioned. 

This disturbing news reached Bode in Florence. He imme- 
diately hastened back to Berlin, where his colleagues were by 
then in a most unpleasant position. The Director, owing to his 
eminence in the art world and his spirited resistance to all im- 
putations of forgery, had made many enemies. They were now 
jubilant, for it seemed that the champion of the authenticity of 
so many works of art which had been called in question had this 
time clearly been mistaken. The moment had arrived, they felt, 
to take the field against the detested 'Art Pope' and 'Art Bismarck' 
and to discredit conclusively, through the proved forgery of the 
bust of Flora, his reputation as an expert in Italian art. In these 
circumstances, the dispute over the bust had a one-sided, non- 
objective character from the start. 

According to an article in the periodical Cicerone c a serious 
question for scholars had been handled from the beginning as a 



THE BUST OF FLORA 

sensational event and dragged down to the level of a cheap 
novelette. It is clear that it eventually involved considerations 
of domestic politics. Some of the Liberal and all the Socialist 
papers made the affair of the bust the platform for a furious 
attack on Bode's character and activities. Meanwhile the Press of 
the Right took a decided stand, just as unqualified, in defence of 
Bode. A leader in the Kreusgeitung explained the passions aroused. 
It bore the title: "The Bust Is Not the Real Issue"/ 

A campaign of this sort in Germany, directed against Bode 
personally from the start, involved him in a painful situation. If 
he admitted that the bust must be a forgery, he would be sur- 
rendering his reputation as a connoisseur. He had obviously 
determined at once to accept this particular challenge to it. He 
threw the whole weight of his personality and innate obstinacy 
into the struggle, against growing opposition. He never owned 
himself in the wrong, though many other specialists in this field 
withdrew their support from him in that particular matter. 

He refused at first to enter into a newspaper controversy. He 
had learnt from the tiara case how dangerous such participation 
might be for the expert. He took up the attitude that questions 
of this kind only concerned scholars. When the bust had been 
first acquired three eminent members of the specialists* committee 
called in had declared themselves in favour of the 'outstanding 
addition' to Berlin's works of art. But now they had nothing to 
say. Bode could not doubt that he was being abandoned to his 
fate. He therefore made a public declaration, pointing out the 
masterly execution of the work in dispute. He tried to minimise 
the whole affair, admitting only that Lucas might have restored 
a Renaissance original. 

Bode opened his defensive campaign with a very clever move. 
He exhibited in the Kaiser Friedrich Museum some other works 
by the alleged forger of the bust of Flora. They consisted of 
interesting restorations of antique productions and certain 
sculptures imitative of figures by Albrecht Diirer and other well- 
known masters of various periods and countries. The style was 
typical of the English School of the first half of the nineteenth 
century in its frigid and smooth versions of older manners. 
Bode hoped to afford a better proof by this display than with 
words that the bust of Flora could not be attributed to an artist 
in this tradition and must be ascribed to the Renaissance. 

53 



FORGERS, DEALERS, EXPERTS 

But the exhibition, convincing as it might be in this respect, 
did show that the sculptor took older models for his works. Nor 
could it dispose of the adverse criticism and weight of suspicion 
in the world at large which had resulted from the disclosures in 
England. Bode's position grew still worse when old newspapers 
and rags dating from the previous century were found inside the 
bust, proving that the statements of A. D. Lucas had been 
correct. 

It is surprising that, when the first alarming reports were 
received from England, A. D. Lucas was not immediately invited 
to come to Berlin and answer all the questions that arose on the 
spot. But Bode, instead of doing so, sent his Berlin colleague, 
Dr Posse, to London. But there it was soon found that Posse was 
only looking for proofs of authenticity and deliberately brushing 
aside all evidence to the contrary. For this reason Lucas declined 
to receive Bode's envoy. Posse then tried to ascertain whether 
the bust had existed before R. C. Lucas's time. He finally stated 
that it had formerly belonged to Lord Palmerston and had been 
given by him to Lucas to restore. A Southampton bookseller, 
Mr Tolfree, affirmed, by way of 'proof* of this circumstance, that 
at the auction of R. C. Lucas's effects the bust of Flora had been 
put aside as not being the property of the deceased but, *in the 
auctioneer's view', that of Lord Palmerston. There could be no 
doubt of the artist's relations with Palmerston, who was known 
to have been one of his patrons. 

But this hypothesis stood in direct opposition to the positive 
assertions of A. D. Lucas and Thomas Whitburn that the bust 
was a first-hand work modelled in imitation of a painting owned 
by Buchanan. Posse's 'evidence' was decidedly weakened by 
the fact that the picture in question existed and was proved to 
have been used as a guide by the sculptor. Pauli writes : e lf the 
bust was in fact excluded from the auction of 1884, the reason, in 
my opinion, is not far to seek. Mr Buchanan may have ordered 
it but not taken delivery. In these circumstances it would be 
very natural for the younger Lucas not to consider the work as 
his own inherited property without further enquiry, if he had the 
slightest ground for believing that his father had received any 
payment or advance on account of the bust.' 

While the Press of the world revelled in one sensational 
revelation after another, experts in Germany maintained a very 

54 



THE BUST OF FLORA 

reserved attitude. They were reluctant to undermine Bode's 
standing and thus respect for German connoisseurship as a 
whole. This feeling is clear from their replies, published in the 
Cicerone's last issue for its first year, 1909, to a questionnaire sent 
out by that periodical Adolf Goldschmidt entirely evaded the 
problem of authenticity by demanding 'proof of the modern 
origin' of the bust c So long as no such proof is forthcoming/ 
he declared, 'the critic who considers the bust geniune is right/ 
Apparently he did not regard the sworn statements of Cooksey, 
A. D. Lucas and Thomas Whitburn as 'proof 5 . Heinrich Wolffiin 
merely referred to his personal 'impression of the bust'. He 
could 'not believe that any nineteenth-century forger could have 
developed sculptural rhythms of such quality by copying a 
painting'. But he did point out 'that large and important sections 
of the head are of later date'. It is characteristic of Wolfflin's 
anxiety to discredit Lucas's disclosures that he considered a 
restoration 'before the father's time' to have been possible. One 
wonders why an incontrovertible aspect of the matter was ignored 
by this commentator. 

Longer expositions of the history of the bust were provided 
by the experts Georg Gronau and Gustav Pauli in reply to the 
Cicerone's questionnaire. Their interpretations are full of interest, 
especially as they come to quite different conclusions. Gronau 
starts, like Bode, from the assumptions that R. C. Lucas could not 
have been in a position to create a work of 'such great beauty', 
that the son of the alleged forger, in his old age, could no longer 
remember the most important details of the affair and that the 
bust of Flora was in fact not listed among the sculptor's produc- 
tions. It is not until Gronau reaches the end of his account of 
the 'probabilities* that he tackles the main issue of deliberate 
forgery. He then simply declares that he cannot 'believe' in it. 

Pauli, Director of the Hamburg Art Gallery, takes a decided 
stand against these views. He considers that there are three main 
proofs that the London sculptor R. C. Lucas imitated the Flora 
painting. In the first place the kind of wax used is remarkably 
like that in the case of other works by the artist and very unlike 
that of proved Renaissance originals. Secondly, the technical 
process of rinsing the cast suggests nineteenth century methods. 
Thirdly, a number of extremely important facts confirm the 
theory of forgery. Pauli begins by refuting the notion that a 

55 



FORGERS, DEALERS, EXPERTS 

second bust, a genuine work which Lucas might have copied, 
may still exist. He goes on to say that the proved fact should not 
be disregarded that Lucas did much imitative work and made 
sculptural versions of paintings. He is proved to have been an 
'imitator*. He reproduced such fundamentally diverse styles as 
the antique, the German Renaissance and the Dutch Baroque. 
So he can hardly be denied his leap into the Italian Cinquecento, 
especially seeing that he was commissioned to do so. Finally 
Pauli, as an art historian of the first rank, did not shrink from 
taking up the question of style. He refers to a 'superficial mimick- 
ing of the formal elements of Leonardo's manner*, which 
lacked the 'subtlety and incomparable precision' of that artist's 
period. Pauli is also doubtful whether the greyish-brown deposit 
was 'only the effect of centuries' and reminds his readers that 
certain skilled forgers had been known to do the centuries' work 
for them. 

The Berlin sculptor Martin Schauss, whom Bode had called in 
to examine the materials used in the bust of Flora, advanced a 
new theory in 1910. His article, entitled 'The Leonardo Flora', 
argued that the bust was modern. He believed that Bastianini 
and the latter's teacher Torrini had something to do with it. He 
gave detailed reasons for supposing that the work had originated 
in Torrini's studio at Florence in 1845, an d that it might accord- 
ingly have been restored by Lucas in England. But these views 
made little headway at the time. 

Pauli's 'heads of indictment* put the supporters of authenticity 
in an awkward position. They did their best to invalidate his 
statements, declaring that the argument from materials could 
never be conclusive and attempting to dissolve all doubts by 
reference to the high aesthetic merits of the bust. They went 
into raptures over Leonardo's unique quality and greatness. 
Bode was well aware that artistic circles respected his judgment 
of Italian works and had hitherto trusted it. By way of protest 
against all possible hesitations he took every opportunity of 
emphatically characterising the bust as a 'production of the very 
first rank' and one of the chief glories of the Berlin museums. 
Official quarters backed him up. In 1910 he was granted the title 
of 'Excellency' and in 1914 admitted to the hereditary nobility. 
In 1911 an official edition of the guide to the Kaiser Friedrich 
Museum appeared, with a frontispiece reproducing the bust of 

j6 




10 The 'Venus of Brizet', also 
known as the 'Venus of the 
Turnip Field' from the site of 
its discovery. Marble, life- 
size. The statue was dug up 
in afield in 1937 and pro- 
nounced to be a masterpiece 
of the Antique. In 1938, 
Francesco Cremonese, an 
kalian sculptor living in 
France, declared that it was 
his own work and was able 
to prove his assertion. 




11 The 'Shield of Scipio\ fourth century AD, silver dish, Bibliotheque 
Nationale, Paris. The figures on this antique dish were used for 
the main motif on the Tiara of Saitaph ernes by a modern imitator. 



1 2 The Tiara of Saitaphernes by Israel Ruchomovsky (1896). 
Gold, Louvre, Paris. The crown was bought by the 
museum for 200,000 francs as a work of the third 
century B.C; it was exposed as a forgery in 1903. 





13 'Rabbi.' A copy by Gerbrand van den Eeckhout (1621-74) after 
a painting by Rembrandt (1606-69). Oil, 70 by 60 cm, Suermondt 
Museum, Aachen. Eeckhout, the pupil and friend of Rembrandt, 
was so faithful a copyist of his master that his copies were long 
held to be original Rembrandts. 



THE BUST OF FLORA 

Flora. The caption was equally challenging. It read: 'Leonardo 
da Vinci, Coloured Wax Bust/ But the text, by Frieda Schott- 
miiller, was phrased differently, with more reserve. The bust was 
said to be Very closely related' to the work of the Florentine 
master and 'might well be from his own hand*. The author 
proceeded: 'The affinity with antique art to be traced in the 
productions of most Cinquecento sculptors in Upper Italy, 
including Florence, both in large-scale carvings and small 
bronzes, is also to be seen, at a glance, in this case. Moreover, 
the characteristic Leonardo smile, especially when the profile is 
observed from the left, and the charm of the quiet, steady gaze 
of the beautiful model, thoroughly typical of the first mature 
style of the High Renaissance, between 1510 and 1520, should 
not be overlooked/ There were no references in the official 
catalogue to the disputed authenticity of the work. 

But a later edition stated: 'This bust, very closely related in 
style to the work of Leonardo and possibly from his own hand, 
suffered much damage as time went on, especially as it was later 
used by boys as a target for toy pistols. Consequently, about 1 845 
it was partially cleaned and restored as necessary by a wax- 
moulder named Lucas, in England/ The assertion here made of 
wanton damage plausibly accounted for the 'working over' and 
'restoration*. It was the first time that any relationship between 
the bust of Flora and R. C. Lucas had been admitted by the 
Berlin museums. 

The controversy did not come to an end as a result of the 
attitude of the Berlin authorities in maintaining the attribution 
of the bust to the Italian Renaissance period. By recognising 
'collaboration' by Lucas they had in effect owned that the bust 
was partly forged. Emil Waldmann, in his book on Collectors and 
Their Friends,, treats the work as a proved forgery. He points out 
that the supporters of its authenticity had omitted to furnish 
clear, scientific proof of its genuine character. For Waldmann 
the very resemblance of the bust to a number of works by 
Leonardo confirms its spuriousness. He comments: 'The 
general effect of the work is too much like Leonardo's to be his. 
This is not a paradox. Such considerations and conclusions are 
part of the common and permanent experience of scholars in the 
artistic field/ His readers are reminded that a picture is known 
to have served as a model for the bust and that some of the details 

57 



FORGERS, DEALERS, EXPERTS 

of the painting were wrongly transferred in the wax copy. 
Waldmann further calls attention to the exaggeration of manner- 
ism characteristic of forgeries and evident in the questionably 
overstressed 'Leonardo smile* of the Flora bust. In conclusion, 
he notes how dangerous the suggestion of a fascinating per- 
sonality as responsible for the work proved in this case. 

Nevertheless, connoisseurs from Bode's circle, from the 
Berlin museums and the ranks of Leonardo specialists abroad 
continued even then to maintain that the bust was genuine. The 
most distinguished representatives of this opinion were the 
Austrian Suida, the Italian Malaguzzi-Valeri and Edmund 
Hildebrandt, Professor at the University of Berlin. As no one 
could prove that the work existed before R. C Lucas's time, their 
case was based mainly on stylistic considerations. In 1927 
Hildebrandt regarded this evidence as 'so extraordinarily im- 
portant as to outweigh all other factors*. Opponents were 
censured for seeing 'only superficial analogies of outward, 
formal design, not the inner essence*. Hildebrandt was so be- 
witched by the bust that he wrote: 'The heads of the Leda and 
the St John look far more sentimental to modern eyes than that 
of the Flora/ He was equally enraptured by the compositional 
features, 'the conspicuous rhythms, suggesting satiated sensuality, 
of the lines of neck and nape that form an indissoluble unity 
with head and arms*. In comparison, the picture supposed to 
have served as a model seemed to him a 'poor, second-hand 
work*. He adds : 'It is really asking too much of the credulity of 
readers to insinuate that the enthralling harmonies of this highly 
articulated work could have depended in any degree upon its 
alleged prototype, a painting which shows every sign of utterly 
incompetent weakness and the most vulgar sentimentality. The 
impressions of a strong personality, of perfect self-possession, 
conveyed by the bust are signs manual of the genius of Leonardo 
himself.* Hildebrandt might just as well have declared outright 
that the picture had been copied from the bust. 

People certainly differ in their ideas of beauty. For other 
connoisseurs thought the bust no more than a feeble imitation. 
Pauli, for example, stoutly maintained that the bust resembled its 
proved model as closely as 'any sculpture in the round can 
resemble any two-dimensional work*. He had also found in the 
bust of Clytie, preserved in England since 1771, a treatment of 

58 



THE BUST OF FLORA 

the hair similar to that in the bust of Flora. Further statements 
of the same kind were published, confirming the theory of a kte 
date of origin for the Flora bust and thus completely contra- 
dicting Hildebrandt's opinion. 

In 1924 the Berlin museum made an attempt to settle the 
controversy once for all. It was alleged that a certain man named 
Lucas had visited the Kaiser Friedrich Museum and disposed of 
all previous evidence by announcing that the bust was not the 
work of R. C. Lucas. According to one rumour the visitor was 
the latter's son, A. D. Lucas, while others mentioned a namesake, 
E. V. Lucas, an amateur of art, as the person in question. But 
these new disclosures were of as vague a character as the identity 
of the mysterious Englishman. At any rate no fresh data were 
adduced bearing upon the origin of the work. 

A reference to the dispute was made in an article by Friedrich 
Winkler which appeared in 1935, with the title 'In Memory of 
Wilhelm von Bode'. The author admits that Bode bought the 
bust 'rather hurriedly and at a relatively high price*. But he 
affirms that Bode 'emerged victorious' from the debate. 'The 
bust is old and genuine,' he continues. 'It was simply Bode's 
misfortune that he did not notice Lucas's touching up of the 
work.' But Winkler was distorting the facts, as supporters of 
the authenticity of the bust repeatedly did. The work cannot be 
described as 'old and genuine'. Lucas's handling of it, admitted 
by the Berlin authorities themselves, obviously amounted to 
some alteration and adulteration of the original condition. 

Moreover, the question whether the bust must be regarded as 
an out-and-out forgery not only remains open but has an ex- 
cellent claim to be answered in the affirmative. Credible state- 
ments by different witnesses obstinately confront the isolated 
attempts of individuals to weaken them. After the lapse of half 
a century it is possible to study all the problems involved more 
objectively than was possible in the circumstances of emotional 
excitement and blind partisanship prevalent in 1909. Modern 
opinion tends to the belief that the picture of Flora formerly 
owned by Buchanan and now in the Basildon Park Collection 
was used as a model for the bust. If the supporters of its authen- 
ticity remain convinced that Lucas only touched up and restored 
the work, they should at least have bestirred themselves, during 
the last fifty years, to find some trace of its earlier existence. 

59 



FORGERS, DEALERS, EXPERTS 

The assumption that the bust was forged also rests upon the 
fact that R. C. Lucas was in the habit of imitating old masters 
and fond of making sculptural versions of pictures. But he 
cannot be stigmatised as a deliberate forger, for his bust of Flora 
was not offered for sale as a genuine work by Leonardo. It was 
not until the experts proclaimed it as his that it became a forgery. 

The development of events in connection with this bust 
followed much the same lines as the stories of the "Benivieni 
bust' and the tiara of Saitapharnes. In all three cases a dealer 
raised the question of authenticity, the actual artist responsible 
was named and the experts loftily denied the facts. But a special 
feature of the Berlin affair was the obstinacy of the few who 
believed the work genuine. For this reason the matter was not 
officially regarded as closed, the work was not withdrawn from 
exhibition and never designated as either a new creation or a 
forgery. Consequently, the bust of Flora did not figure in any 
of the big exhibitions of forged works recently held. Yet it might 
justifiably have been accorded a place of its own beside Bastianini's 
portraits and Madonna reliefs (see illustrations) and Rucho- 
movsky's gold crown (see illustration). 

The case of the 'Flora* revealed new opportunities to the 
forgers. There are relatively few sculptures by painters. So 
little chance of comparison would arise and a wide field for future 
fraudulent activities could be anticipated. It was regarded as a 
very favourable circumstance that a number of modern painters, 
for example Degas, Gauguin, Renoir and Matisse, were known 
to have produced sculpture. In this connection the large number 
of three-dimensional works - 'previous owners unknown' - 
alleged to be by the painter and draughtsman Honor6 Daumier, 
affords ground for suspicion. 



60 



CHAPTER 11 



Alceo Dossena 



SCARCELY ANY FORGER of works of art has achieved such fame 
as an artist in his own right as the Italian Alceo Dossena (see 
illustration). He is still often referred to as the 'king of forgers* 
in this field. 

This mysterious sculptor attained such general recognition 
because he did not copy individual works but merely imitated 
bygone styles. He by no means restricted himself to a single 
period nor is he known only in European countries. The revela- 
tion of his activities attracted attention, in American art circles 
as well as elsewhere. Innumerable publications have since dealt 
with him as man, artist and forger. For the very reason that, in 
consequence, his case has become so overlaid with romantic and 
sensational features and even made to resemble a e crime story*, 
some account of the true sequence of events in the scandal he 
caused may not be out of place here. 

On Christmas Eve 1916 the Cremonese stonemason Alceo 
Dossena left his military quarters at Poggio Mirteto for Rome. 
Under his short, grey-green soldier's cape he carried a marble 
relief of the Madonna and Child. He had carved it in his free 
time and now wished to sell it. In the Via Mario de 5 Fiori, close 
to the Piazza di Spagna, the Roman artists* quarter, he met 
Alfredo Fasoli, a goldsmith and art dealer. The latter 's ex- 
perienced eye detected profitable possibilities in the relief. He 
readily paid Dossena 100 lire for it. Subsequent sale of the work 
by Fasoli as an 'old original' realised many times that sum. 

Dossena was at first rather worried when the dealer called the 
relief an 'old piece*. He did not suspect that the shrewd fellow 
soon saw what it really was and meant to exploit his recognition. 
Fasoli took care to meet Dossena again and make him attractive 

61 



FORGERS, DEALERS, EXPERTS 

offers, saying he would be glad to have further works from the 
sculptor and indicating the possibility of future collaboration on 
a large scale. 

In order to appreciate Dossena's delight at this piece of luck, 
it is necessary to take a glance at his earlier struggles. He was 
born on the 8th October 1878 at Cremona, where he grew up 
among artists. His family did not specialise in any particular 
field, but worked at any task that promised reasonable remunera- 
tion. They were by turns sculptors, architects and painters. 
Alceo showed at a very early age that he was quick to learn any 
handicraft and had astonishingly good taste. He made violins 
which are said to have been as good as the highly prized old 
instruments. He acquired an equal mastery in the treatment of 
marble, clay, bronze and wood. But he took little interest in the 
new styles. He was devoted above all to the ancient art of 
sculpture as exemplified in the cathedral and churches of his 
native city. He soon began to study, restore and copy these 
works. Their various styles inspired his own first productions, 
tombstones, decorative figures for buildings and fountains and 
statuettes for the mantelpiece or shelf. 

He earned little by these activities, though friends and con- 
noisseurs were repeatedly surprised by the young sculptor's 
assurance both as craftsman and stylist. He had to work hard to 
provide himself and his family with a tolerable living. As there 
were few chances for an artist to develop in Cremona, he mi- 
grated in turn to Milan, Parma and Bologna. The first world 
war interrupted a promising career. Military service did, how- 
ever, allow a certain amount of time for modelling. 

Fasoli recognised the gifts of the simple soldier-artist and saw 
in them an opportunity to distribute false 'antiques*. The dealer 
consulted Romano Palesi, the 'wood-worm king', whose reputa- 
tion as a salesman of ancient art extended far beyond Rome and 
was even appreciated in America. The two men worked out a 
bold plan. Dossena received the tempting invitation to settle in 
Rome after the war and enter the service of the two dealers and 
their contact men. 

In 1919 he moved into a studio in the Via del Vantaggio, in 
the Lungotevere district, near the Piazza del Popolo and the 
Piazza di Spagna. He felt happy. There was much work to be 
done. But he found continual stimulation in the streets and 

62 



ALCEO DOSSENA 

squares, palaces, churches and museums. He was well treated by 
his 'bosses*. Sometimes they stood him special meals and 
champagne. But they did not always pay him punctually and 
often complained that 'business was bad*. Dossena was simple 
enough to wonder whether they 'could meet their expenses even 
with my help*. 

He was given orders to execute certain carvings in the manner 
of this or that master. As a craftsman he saw nothing out of the 
way in such instructions. He searched museums and books for 
examples of the works of the artists in question. Then he would 
produce a new work in the style, spirit and technique of the 
master concerned. After some years he became an expert in the 
characteristics of Giovanni and Nino Pisano, Simone Martini, 
Vecchietta, Donatello and Mino da Fiesole. He had not only 
learnt to copy the typical peculiarities of these artists but also the 
outward signs of age in the originals. For Italians have achieved 
during the last few centuries a remarkable skill in the artificial 
rendering of the ravages of time. 

Dossena*s monthly income at this period averaged about 80. 
It can only be regarded as pocket-money when one realises that 
a fraudulent sale of some of Dossena's 'old masterpieces* could 
run into millions for his exploiters. For example, he would be 
paid 200 lire for a figure the subsequent sale of which brought 
in 3000 lire. The few thousands of lire he earned contrasted 
with the millions paid for his works at a later date. Altogether 
the dealers are supposed to have made about 40 millions out of 
his productions. But the precise figures never came to light. 
According to Augusto Jandolo, the friend and biographer of 
Dossena, his best imitation was a statue of Athena (Minerva). 
The goddess was represented lifesize, ready for battle, with 
helmet and breastplate, a circular shield on the left arm. Jandolo 
extols the figure as a 'work of art perfect in every respect, equal 
to the Apollo of Veii, the Charioteer of Delphi and the Aegina 
sculptures. It is enough to dumbfound any connoisseur. The 
false patina is the finest ever seen, yellowish in colour, with here 
and there traces of a chalky deposit so hard as to be impervious 
to the sharpest steel.* Jandolo describes in his Confessions how 
Dossena contrived to cover the whole statue, which weighed 
about 6 cwt, with an even, bright patina. 

He had a kind of bath sunk in the floor of his studio and filled 



FORGERS, DEALERS, EXPERTS 

it with acid, the composition of which remained his personal 
secret. The statue was dipped in this bath, with the aid of a 
pulley, about forty times. It was only by so prolonged and 
troublesome a process that the stone could be thoroughly im- 
pregnated by the acid, the dazzling white marble given a warm, 
golden tone and the effect of an excavated image obtained. 

When this so-called 'antique' came on the market soon after- 
wards specialists were enraptured. Jakob Hirsch, the prominent 
New York dealer, paid thirty million lire for it. He was so 
delighted with his purchase that he took the figure in his arms 
and kissed its stony mouth. 

A second masterpiece by Dossena was the 'Savelli tomb'. It 
was offered in 1921 by Romano Palesi to Miss Ellen Frick, the 
well-known New York collector. The story went that it had 
been discovered in a half-ruined church and that very highly 
placed ecclesiastical authorities had stipulated that its sale and 
export should be arranged in the greatest possible secrecy. The 
price asked was six million lire. The figure appeared reasonable, 
as the tomb was ascribed to Mino da Fiesole. Miss Frick agreed 
the sum. But meanwhile she privately instructed certain of her 
agents to investigate the dealer's statements. They could find 
neither the ruined church, the persons named as intermediaries 
nor any other proofs that the marble sepulchre was genuine. But 
they did come across Alceo Dossena, who immediately acknow- 
ledged that he was responsible for the work. He had been paid 
25,000 lire for it, so that Palesi, by selling it in America as an 
original by Mino da Fiesole, would have made a profit of 5 ,975 ,000 
lire. 

A scandal could no longer be avoided. The art world now knew 
who Palesi and Dossena were. The sculptor had found out what 
was going on behind his back. He had thought the dealers were 
his sincere friends. But it was proved that they had robbed him 
of millions. Soon afterwards a further development brought the 
whole sordid affair into the open. 

In May 1927 Dossena's wife Teresina died, after a long illness 
which had cost a great deal of money. The sculptor found 
himself penniless. He couldn't even pay for the funeral. In 
despair, he applied to the employers for whom he had worked so 
long, for a loan. But they declined to help him in any way, 
alleging that he had not delivered work for which he had been 




14 

'Flora", painting in the style of 
Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519). 
The mode! for the bust of Flora 
by Lucas. The correspondence 
between the painting and the 
modern bust is striking enough 
to establish a probable connection. 




15 

'Flora', probably by Richard 
Cockle Lucas (1846). Painted 
wax bust, Kaiser Fried rich 
Museum, Berlin. Wilhelm Bode 
acquired the bust for 160,000 
marks in 1909 for the Berlin 
collection as a genuine Leonardo. 




16 

Alceo Dossena, the Cremona mason, 
in his studio. On his own admission he 
was the sculptor of numerous pieces 
which passed unchallenged for many 
years as genuine works of the Antique, 
Medieval and Renaissance periods. 



17 

'Madonna. 1 Wood carving by Alceo Dossena 
(1925). Dossena took the starting point for this 
work from an Annunciation by Simone Martini 
(1285-1344). Martini's style has been so 
convincingly imitated in this Madonna that it 
was adduced as proof that Martini was a sculptor 
as well as a painter. 





18 

'Virgin and Child.' Marble relief by Alceo 
Dossena (1929), Victoria and Albert 
Museum, London. This relief appeared 
after Dossena's forgeries were known and 
shows the sculptor's signature and the 
date prominently on the lower part of 
the surround. 



ALCEO DOSSENA 

paid in advance. Dossena could not understand why he, who 
had produced so many imitations of antique, medieval and 
Renaissance art, should meet with such a refusal. Surely he 
could claim some share in the profits of millions that had been 
made? Disappointed and embittered by the dealers' behaviour, 
he consulted a well-known Roman lawyer. Photographs and 
sketches which he had carefully preserved proved to his ama2ed 
legal adviser that Dossena was responsible for many works on 
exhibition in public and private collections as ancient originals 
and accordingly constituting forgeries. 

This disclosure ran through Rome 'like wildfire* and caused 
indescribable consternation. By 1928 the whole world knew that 
innumerable 'old masterpieces* and 'artistic finds' which had 
cropped up in the last eight years were not old and genuine at all, 
but new forgeries. Certain experts declared that they had long 
been of opinion that some of the works were spurious. But most 
amateurs and connoisseurs would not and could not believe 
Dossena's statements. A Munich specialist went so far as to 
maintain in public that an archaic group said by Dossena to be 
his was 'perfectly genuine' and that the sculptor was simply 
'boasting'. 

When Jakob Hirsch of New York first heard of Dossena's 
confessions and consequently that the Athena statue was a fake, 
he thought the sculptor must be making a bad joke or simply 
being malicious. But he embarked at once for Italy, wired his 
agent in Venice and hastened, with the latter, to Rome. Jandolo 
describes Hirsch's meeting with Dossena. The New Yorker 
angrily called the sculptor a 'braggart' and a 'wicked slanderer*. 
But the latter insisted that he had been responsible for the Athena 
statue. When the American still declined to believe him he 
produced the figure's hand, which he had broken off. Even 
Hirsch then had to admit that the work had been forged. 

Dossena offered a further proof of the truth of his statements 
by allowing himself to be filmed at work. Dr Hans Ciirlis, Head 
of the Berlin Institute for Cultural Research, has described the 
scene. 'We watched Dossena modelling for some time before 
we started shooting. He was working on a group in clay . . . his 
technique was the last word in academic precision. The figures 
were first thoroughly shaped in the nude from the living model 
. . . then he draped the model and reproduced the robing in clay 

65 



FORGERS, DEALERS, EXPERTS 

on his figures ... at this point we saw the most ama2ing per- 
formance we had ever observed by a sculptor. Without the aid 
of any preliminary sketches in either three or two dimensions the 
figures were given, in a few minutes, without haste, both high 
and low relief. Dossena worked so fast and his results were 
always so unexpected, that our camera could hardly keep up 
with him ... we also naturally very much wished to see him 
tackle an antique statue. He asked what he should make and I 
requested him to construct the archaic figure of a goddess. He 
enquired whether a seated or standing posture was wanted. 
When we decided for the latter, he at once began to build up the 
armature with a few small boards. Half an hour later he had 
modelled in cky the figure of a goddess some 60 cm high, in the 
Attic style, with all the captivating beauty of an only slightly 
relaxed formality so much admired in the best genuine specimens 
of the period ... in this case, too, the figure was roughed out in 
the nude first and then draped. He modelled the head with equal 
ease, till, quite suddenly, the face bore the smile of a goddess to 
whom the Greeks would have prayed 2500 years ago. We also 
photographed Dossena at work with hammer and chisel on the 
prostrate form of an early Greek warrior. The sculptor showed 
a perfect mastery of his technique and no concern whatever about 
the outcome of his labours. 

'We watched him at work day after day. He never made the 
slightest attempt to impress or mystify us. Now and then he 
would hum snatches from an opera or give us a friendly smile. 
The rarity of his achievement seemed to come with such ease 
that we only realised later that we might have been watching the 
reincarnation of a Renaissance or Attic master. The idea was 
bound to shock and at the same time fascinate an art historian 
like myself. It seemed to make nonsense of that fundamental 
principle in the study of all art according to which a distinct style 
can only arise once, as a result of specific conditions operative 
at a certain period. It was as though causality no longer existed 
and the force of gravity had ceased to act, so that theories hitherto 
securely founded upon experience had been torn from their 
anchorage/ 

This statement and others of the time show what an extra- 
ordinarily disturbing effect the Dossena aflair had upon people 
interested in art at this date. As in the case of other scandals of 

66 



ALCEO DOSSENA 

the kind the revelations aroused rapturous enthusiasm for the 
'genius* of the man who had deceived an entire world. The 
innumerable spectators of Dr Ciirlis's film entitled The Creative 
Hand had been privileged to see Dossena at work in his studio 
and admire the way in which he produced his 'antiques*. They 
were made known to the public in a number of special exhibitions. 
A room was set aside in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 
New York, in 1929, for the display of Dossena's forged master- 
pieces depicting maidens of ancient Rome. In the same year the 
Coroni Gallery at Naples showed a large collection of his sculp- 
tures. In 1930 it was transferred to the Berlin Hall of Art in the 
Bellevue Strasse. This exhibition enabled a comprehensive 
survey to be made, for the first time, of Dossena's borrowings 
and imitations, and at the same time of his undoubtedly creative 
'modern' touch. 

But the total impression made by these shows proved dis- 
appointing. The sculptor clearly relied more on old models than 
had hitherto been recognised. Many of his original works, too, 
were weak. It is known to-day that even before the sculptor's 
confession several of his productions had been returned to the 
fraudulent dealers as 'spurious' or 'doubtful*. An 'ancient statue 
of Athena* was declined and sent back by the Cleveland Museum. 
The 'doubtful* head of a Roman maiden was proved a forgery in 
New York by investigation of the materials used. The Berlin 
Museum found that a Madonna alleged to be by Pisano had been 
copied from the Scrovegni Madonna at Padua and accordingly 
rejected it. A so-called Renaissance relief submitted to the 
Kunsthistorisches Museum of Vienna by a Venetian painter was 
recognised as a modern imitation and therefore a forgery. 

Few of Dossena's counterfeits were detected as such on their 
first appearance, since he had treated the aspect and materials of 
his originals with some freedom. Some of his sculptures were 
copied from Italian paintings. He made a wooden version (see 
illustration) of an Annunciation by Simone Martini. This work 
seemed so 'genuine* when it came on the market that even 
experts believed it was by Martini. The 'new discovery* was 
regarded as a proof that the distinguished Quattrocento painter 
had also been active as a sculptor. When Dossena copied three- 
dimensional works he used different materials. He imitated 
Pisano's marble Madonna in wood and gave it a new look by 

6? 



FORGERS, DEALERS, EXPERTS 

laying on various shades of colour. Technical skill was used to 
obliterate stylistically weak or obviously derivative passages. 
Dossena had something of the craftsmanship of the old masters, 
so seldom possessed by modern artists. It was above all owing 
to his mastery of technique, also exemplified in the artificial 
appearance of age he imposed on his productions, that they were 
so often taken to be by Donatello, Simone Martini, Mino da 
Fiesole and Giovanni Pisano. 

As soon as Dossena became recognised as the creator of so 
many ^ancient' works, he was hailed, as is usual in such cases, as 
a great maestro. His countrymen in particular took great pride 
in the man who had revived the glories of Italian art. He was 
entrusted with important commissions, such as the erection of a 
war memorial in his native city of Cremona and the provision of 
statues for Roman churches and palaces. Outside Italy more 
attention was paid to his imitations and reproductions. For 
example, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London acquired 
in 1930 three terracotta reliefs of the Madonna and Child executed 
by Dossena in the Florentine style of the fifteenth century (see 
illustration). The emphasis given to his signature and the date 
in this piece is significant, for it distinguishes the work from those 
previously ascribed to the Early Renaissance period. But while 
the latter commanded enormous prices, a 'Dossena' only cost 
i 2. The artist himself considered this difference in market value 
unfair. He regarded his productions, with the excessive com- 
placency characteristic of many forgers of works of art, as fully 
equal to those of the great masters of the past. 'Yes,' he said, *I 
was the man, I am he who made all those sculptures which caused 
so much astonishment and admiration, sarcophagi, Madonnas, 
cherubs, reliefs and all the rest of them. But I'm not a forger. 
I'm not a swindler. I never copied works. I simply reconstructed 
them. Even as a boy in the industrial art school at Cremona I 
grew to be perfectly familiar with the various styles of the past, 
not as represented by any particular treatment of line or mass, 
but as manifest in the spirit to which they gave material ex- 
pression. I could not assimilate them in any other way. And 
that was how I produced all my sculptures, which really deserve 
to be prized as highly as those of Donatello, Verrocchio, 
Vecchietta or da Fiesole.' 

In 1930 Hans Ciirlis wrote: *Dossena's commanding ability is 

68 



ALCEO DOSSENA 

indisputable and so is his capacity for sympathetic absorption of 
other men's styles. He cannot be proved to have deliberately 
forged anything. Everything we know about his methods of 
work and his career is impartial testimony against the assumption 
that he is a forger. I will say nothing about my personal im- 
pression of the man, which fully endorses the facts stated above/ 
Dossena was not a forger in the legal sense. He neither copied 
the works of the old masters nor did he concoct new works 
from different passages in theirs. He produced more or less free 
versions of their manners in another medium. He did not make 
great profits by selling his sculptures as those of old masters. On 
the contrary he disposed of them as his own at current prices. It 
is not however quite clear whether, in the last period of his 
collaboration with his fraudulent employers, he knew of their 
activities and thus rendered himself in a sense their accomplice 
in forgery. The Roman Courts could find no grounds for 
proceeding against him. But he does not quite escape the sus- 
picion that he may have helped to promote forging. 

A study of the sensational scandals that have occurred in this 
field inevitably leads to comparison of Dossena with other 
artists of his type and especially with Giovanni Bastianini. 
Jandolo calls both sculptors 'highly gifted'. No less an authority 
than Max Friedlander described them as the 'aristocrats of 
forgery'. In coming to this conclusion he was probably most 
influenced by the facts that neither man consciously deceived 
anyone, or wanted to make a fortune, and that neither could 
therefore be branded as a forger in the usual sense of the word. 
In addition, the spirit in which both sculptors forked was about 
the same. Their portrait busts and reliefs of the Madonna are so 
much alike that the ordinary observer can hardly distinguish 
them. The connoisseur, however, detects in Dossena's work a 
streak of realism which neutralises the strict stylisation of the 
old masters and accordingly reveals the difference between the 
new work and the old. 

He met the fate which overtook many other notorious art 
forgers after their activities had been revealed. Universal ad- 
miration and respect turned in the end to repudiation. The very 
people who had praised his works as prodigious masterpieces 
discovered faults and shortcomings in them. The productions 
which had formerly been described as 'chiselled under Divine 



FORGERS, DEALERS, EXPERTS 

guidance' were criticised as being 'within the capacity of any 
ordinary craftsman'. Dossena shrugged his shoulders. He was 
disappointed. But he went on working as long as he could. 
After a while nothing more was heard of him. It was not known 
until long after his death how he spent the last few years of his 
life. He had already entered art history when in 1937 he died in 
a paupers' hospital in Rome. The funeral expenses were borne 
by the parish. Apparently no one now knows where he was 
buried. But an attempt to revive his reputation was made in an 
exhibition of his works at Rome in February 1956 and in a volume 
which appeared shortly before that date. The book contained 
an appreciation of that 'extraordinary artist', Alceo Dossena, by 
his son Walter Lusetti. The writer declared that Dossena's 
productions in the spirit of the past were not copies but 'new 
creations inspired by old styles'. Both book and exhibition 
showed examples of Dossena's freely conceived sculptures, a 
Jesus of the Sacred Heart from the Church of the Gesu, a St 
Anthony of Padua from the Chiesa Nuova, marble Stations of 
the Cross from San Patrizio and a Christ from the Papal Uni- 
versity of St Gregory. But these works are reminiscent of various 
prototypes. The lack of a personal idiom and the stress laid on 
external features are more evident now than they were thirty 
years ago. An effect of fussiness and incoherence is to be noted 
in every case. The figures are aesthetically uninteresting. No 
one would take much notice of them to-day if it were not for the 
artist's name, that of a man who once commanded the attention 
of those concerned with art throughout the world. 



70 



CHAPTER 12 



Wacker's Van Goghs* 



WORKS OF ART in great demand, highly regarded and fetching 
big prices, are those which are most often imitated and forged. So 
long as amateurs and collectors were only interested in produc- 
tions of the past, forgers and swindlers concentrated upon the art 
of former days. But at the present time, when new departures 
in this field are being recognised, modern works, too, are forged. 

The first of such counterfeits of contemporary styles are 
associated with the name of Camille Corot. Some modern pictures 
are so cleverly imitated that the artists themselves cannot always 
distinguish their own efforts from those of others and at times it 
proves impossible to decide between the genuine and the spurious. 

Vincent van Gogh (1853-90) has come to be considered a 
typical artist of recent times. His paintings are therefore fre- 
quently forged. Born in the Netherlands and later living in 
France, he attracted hardly any attention while he was alive. His 
works were rejected with indignation even as gifts. 'What am I 
supposed to do with such daubs?' the disconcerted artist was 
asked by the enraged director of a gallery at Aries. In 1886 van 
Gogh's 'Red Crabs' was valued at five francs. But after his death 
prices slowly rose. In 1890 one of his works was sold for a 
hundred francs. In 1900 a thousand francs were paid for the 
same picture. By 1925 his productions were costing anything 
from 50,000 to 70,000 francs. A sum of 240,000 marks was paid 
in 1929 by the Berlin National Gallery for his 'Daubigny's 
Garden'. In 1948 a van Gogh fetched 100,000 dollars in the 
United States. Soon afterwards figures of a quarter and half a 
million marks were being quoted. To-day prices of a million 
marks and upwards are quite common. 

The rising market put the forgers and impostors on the alert. 



FORGERS, DEALERS, EXPERTS 

The artist's manner could be imitated with comparative ease. 
Van Dantzig, the Amsterdam connoisseur and expert on forgery, 
has stated: e Anyone familiar with van Gogh's career will realise 
how readily counterfeits of his work can be produced/ The 
circumstances in which most of his pictures were painted remain 
obscure. He worked in many different places. As he could never 
sell his productions, he gave them to friends or left them lying 
about in attics and cellars. Years later they were destroyed as 
rubbish by the ignorant or else rescued by connoisseurs as 
important masterpieces. It was not particularly difficult for a 
fraudulent dealer to put forgeries on the market if he asserted that 
they had been found in one of the many Dutch, Belgian or French 
regions where the artist had lived. Reliable information would 
never be forthcoming, as the unsophisticated inhabitants of the 
locality could not be brought to see the importance of the affair. 

Nor need a forger hesitate to appropriate and copy any of the 
painter's familiar subjects. For the master himself was fond of 
repeating his themes, some of which he recast as many as eight 
times. Consequently, suspicion would never be aroused if, when 
a new van Gogh cropped up, it was found to deal with an idea 
the artist had already treated. Moreover, as van Gogh did not 
trouble himself much about materials and methods of execution, 
the forger could also afford to neglect them. 

It is intelligible, therefore, that the works of van Gogh were 
much favoured by counterfeiters. In fact, it is quite certain that 
hitherto more forgeries than original productions by the artist 
have been current. Steps have been taken to assemble pictures 
identified as forgeries and familiarise the public with them by 
reproductions. In 1929, for example, a supplementary volume 
was issued to the catalogue of van Gogh's paintings. No fewer 
than 128 forgeries were listed by the eminent specialist J. B. de la 
Faille, an authority on van Gogh, in this additional publication. 
But later writings by the same expert prove the great difficulty 
experienced even by connoisseurs in identifying van Gogh 
forgeries. For de la Faille subsequently changed his mind in six 
of the cases he had first listed, affirming that the pictures in 
question were after all originals. Of these one was a self-portrait 
from the Chester Dale Collection and another a 'Sea at Saintes- 
Maries' from the Dutch Kroller-Muller Collection at Otterlo. 
Both originally came from the collection of Otto Wacker. The 

7* 



WACKER'S 'VAN GOGHS' 

greatest scandal in connection with van Gogh forgeries and one 
of the most sensational in art history is associated with this 
collector's name. 

In January 1927 the prominent German art dealer Paul Cassirer 
held an exhibition of paintings by van Gogh in Berlin. It com- 
prised just under a hundred works from various collections. The 
pictures differed a great deal in quality. Some seemed extremely 
'dubious' to the experts. On investigation all the questionable 
items were found to have come from a single collection, that of 
a certain Otto Wacker, of whom few people had ever heard (see 
illustration). 

He was born in Diisseldorf. As a boy he had sold pictures 
painted by his father, who combined with this occupation those 
of a day-labourer and domestic servant. In 1917 Otto Wacker 
was arrested for trying to sell a forged painting alleged to be by 
Franz Stuck. After the first world war Wacker earned his living 
as an art dealer and dancer. During 1923-4, under the high- 
sounding name of 'Olindo LowaeP, he appeared in public, in his 
native city, as an interpreter of 'Old Spanish Dances*. It was in 
these circumstances, according to his own account, that he met a 
Russian collector, with whose examples of van Gogh's work he 
set up as an art dealer in Berlin. 

The items in Cassker's exhibition were closely examined. 
Meier-Graefe, who had made a thorough study of van Gogh's 
painting, expressed grave doubts of the authenticity of the 
pictures supplied by Wacker. He imparted his opinion to de la 
Faille, who had certified them as genuine. In November 1928 the 
public was startled to learn from the latter that no fewer than thirty- 
three of the works from Wacker's shop had proved to be forgeries. 

The dealer defended himself by quoting the judgments of 
acknowledged experts and demanded in his turn proof of forgery. 
But he returned unsatisfactory answers to questions about the 
provenance of the works. He referred to a certain Russian living 
in Switzerland, whose name he was not at liberty to give. This 
attitude he attempted to excuse by the statement that the former 
collector concerned would be exposed to 'endless embarrassments 
and reprisals* if it became known in the Soviet Union that his 
van Goghs had come from Russia. Wacker deckred that for this 
reason he had destroyed all the documentary evidence and letters 
relating to the paintings in dispute* 

73 



FORGERS, DEALERS, EXPERTS 

His lawyer, a well-known Berlin practitioner named Ivan Gold- 
schmidt, contributed an article to the Frankfurter Zeitmg relating 
the history of the pictures in question. He began by stating 
that he would not deviate a hairsbreadth from the truth. But any 
defence counsel must of course be heard with reserve. He went 
on to say that in the years 1925-8 Wacker acquired some twenty- 
five works by van Gogh, of which he sold all but one to various 
art shops. The first few were not certified. But the next twenty 
were authenticated by de la Faille, the editor of the van Gogh 
catalogue. Other specialists in the artist's work, such as Meier- 
Graefe, Rosenhagen and Bremmer, had written formal reports 
testifying, without qualification, that the paintings were genuine. 

The Berlin art dealers Thannhauser, Matthiesen and Gold- 
schmidt considered, as soon as these doubts of the authenticity 
of the pictures became known, that they had been cheated into 
offering the disputed works for sale. They demanded an enquiry 
and gave Wacker until the i4th December to reveal the where- 
abouts of the mysterious Russian collector and until the end of 
the month to submit documentary evidence of the origin of the 
items concerned. But as Wacker made no attempt to keep his 
promises and continued his efforts to talk himself out of the 
affair by references to the 'impossibility of finding* the Russian, 
the Art Dealers' Union, in December 1928, applied for proceed- 
ings by the Berlin Public Prosecutor. 

At the request of the Criminal Investigation Department 
Professor Ludwig Justi, Director of the National Gallery, drew 
up a formal report on the pictures. His attitude on the subject 
was already well known. He stated that 'ten of the works origin- 
ally from Wacker's collection and now in the Palace of the Crown 
Prince must be declared spurious, on such incontrovertible 
evidence as is rarely available'. The proofs were as follows. Van 
Gogh, from his Paris period onward, used normal French 
canvases, whereas the forgeries were painted on a different kind 
of canvas, not French. Nor did their brushwork correspond 
with that of the originals. The colours of the forged paintings, 
again, were muddy, dull and dismal compared with the enamel- 
like glow of the artist's own work. Chemical tests showed that 
they had been mixed with siccatives, so that they dried rapidly 
and turned hard. It was also found that the chrome yellows had 
been broken down by calculated admixtures of blue, red and 

74 



WACKER'S 'VAN GOGHS' 

green. The analysis of style indicated that the forgeries had not 
been copied from originals but from black and white versions. 
Rontgen photography revealed that kyers of stucco, with the 
effect of a relief, had been applied to the canvases, so as to 
reproduce the structure of van Gogh's impasto as though on a 
relief map. The forger thus imitated, by laying colour over the 
stucco, the actual process in which the artist applied colour direct 
from the tube. 

Wacker aroused further suspicion by going off to Leyden in 
the Netherlands and not complying with an order of the German 
police to return to Berlin by the 2ist January 1929. He explained 
that he was ill and therefore not able to attend a hearing of his 
case. Meanwhile the police searched the studio of his brother 
Leonhard at Dxisseldorf. They found and confiscated a copy, 
only just finished, of one of the pictures offered for sale by Otto 
Wacker and also a study of one of the van Gogh forgeries. 
Although these discoveries afforded no proof of the origin of 
the works in dispute, they did suggest that both brothers were 
concerned in fabricating van Goghs. 

Otto Wacker, still in the Netherlands, continued to maintain 
that he was in poor health, personally did not understand any 
art except that of the dance and in particular could prove that 
several eminent experts had guaranteed the authenticity of the 
suspected paintings. He said that, even after the question had 
been raised in public and caused such a scandal, renowned 
connoisseurs like Meier-Graefe and the Dutch specialist Bremmer 
remained convinced that the pictures were genuine. 

Bremmer taught applied aesthetics at the Hague. He had 
assisted Frau Kroller to organise the unique collection of van 
Goghs which is still so great an attraction of the Kroller-Muller 
State Museum in Otterlo, near Arnheim. In 1928 he had pur- 
chased from Wacker the 'Sea View from Saintes-Maries* which is 
still on exhibition at the Museum. Even after de la Faille had 
declared that painting to be spurious, Bremmer continued to be 
certain it was authentic. He announced that he was ready to 
prove his complete confidence in Wacker's collection by buying 
another work from it. But the German police prevented him 
from doing so. They had no intention of allowing important 
pieces of evidence to go abroad. 

The preliminary investigations dragged on, protracted by the 

75 



FORGERS, DEALERS, EXPERTS 

prolonged absence of Otto Wacker from Germany. The most 
diverse views were expressed by experts, to the amusement of 
the lay public. Just as in the case of the Paris 'tiara sensation' 
numerous ditties and jokes on the subject were current. In one 
popular ballad the line 'Mother, the coke-man's here!' was 
altered by the invariably quick-witted Berliners to 'Mother, the 
Gogh-man's here!' 

On the 6th April 1932 Otto and Leonhard Wacker appeared 
in the Moabit Court, Berlin, charged with the production and 
distribution of forgeries of van Gogh's paintings. Sentence was 
passed on the i9th April. Otto Wacker was condemned to a 
year's imprisonment for persistent swindling. It was proved that 
the accused had in three cases given demonstrably false names of 
previous owners, viz., Osthaus, Ozmella and Bernhard Wacker. 
A further damning fact was that the origin of the works could not 
be substantiated by any correspondence, transport vouchers, 
customs certificates or bills relating to payment. The Court found 
the brothers guilty of maintaining a 'shuttle service of pictures'. 

In some cases comparison with originals enabled the forgeries 
to be identified (see illustration). Rontgen photography was 
particularly serviceable in this connection. X-rays showed, for 
example, that in the famous 'Reaper' owned by the Berlin 
National Gallery, 'the sun is represented by fluid brush-strokes. 
But in a version of the same subject marketed by Wacker the 
marked thickening and thinning of the pigment in the original 
has become a feeble ripple. Van Gogh's significant accents in the 
top layer of paint are copied in the Wacker replica for their own 
sake and so become empty mannerisms. Accidental touches in 
the sky to the right, above the line of hills, are scarcely visible in 
the Rontgen photograph of the original. But in Wacker's 
reproduction they are given disproportionate, conspicuous 
emphasis, thus acquiring an inexplicable importance. The 
brushing in of the sky is in fact hesitant and timid throughout. 
Each stroke is so shakily applied as almost to blend with the 
background/ These statements were made by Wehlte. 

Both Wacker and the Public Prosecutor appealed against the 
sentence of the i9th April. The appeal was heard on the 6th 
December. The whole case, with all its contradictory features, 
was examined afresh for seven weeks. Special stress was laid 
this time on the investigation of painting methods and especially 

76 



WACKER S VAN GOGHS 

on the material indications of fraud. The most weighty evidence 
related to abstracts of accounts, forged documents and declarations 
on oath. But the general aspect of the matter remained unaltered, 
except that Wacker's operations were found to be more extensive 
than had at first appeared. The revised sentence was based on 
this discovery. The accused was sent to prison for one year and 
seven months and fined 30,000 marks or in default thereof 
ordered to serve a further 300 days of imprisonment. He was 
put under arrest immediately after sentence, in order to prevent 
any attempt at escape. It was rumoured that the case would be 
brought before the Supreme Court. But no such official announce- 
ment was made in the Press. 

Little, in fact, was published in Germany about the hearing of 
the appeal. In the Netherlands, however, the proceedings of 
each day were reported in detail. It is surprising to find that 
Bremmer still believed Wacker's van Goghs to be genuine and 
that other experts agreed with him. One of the Dutch com- 
mentators wrote that only a Dutchman could be a fair judge of 
van Gogh and his works. The results of the German investiga- 
tions were not accepted in Holland. 

Several connoisseurs continued to maintain the authenticity 
of the pictures marketed by Wacker. As time went on more and 
more experts adopted this attitude. De la Faille himself, who had 
first raised the question, now began to have his doubts. He wrote 
that 'the matter has not yet been settled'. In 1939 he published 
a new book on the artist in which he explained: 'I have now 
changed the views expressed in my book The False Van Gogbs 
and am certain that the six works named below are genuine. 
They were all originally in the Wacker Collection. My opinion 
is shared by the Dutch specialists H. B. Bremmer, W. Scherjon, 
Jos de Gruyter and others. German scholars, on the contrary, 
consider all the works from this collection to be forgeries.* 

A number of disputed points relating to van Gogh's produc- 
tions still remain obscure. These include not only the question 
of the works which cropped up in Wacker's collection but also 
many items which have come to light in various countries. Some 
of these are mentioned in de la Faille's supplementary volume. 
The pictures differ a good deal in quality. A few are quite 
remarkable and interesting. They can plausibly be referred to 
van Gogh's period and places of activity. An artist named Murer 

77 



FORGERS, DEALERS, EXPERTS 

Is cited by de la Faille as probably responsible for the Parisian 
scenes. Theodore Duret believes that they came from the Cafe 
Segatori where van Gogh left some of his works. But in any case 
few people suppose to-day that the productions in question are 
by the master. 

De la Faille has nothing much to say about possible further 
groups of forgeries. He attributes four drawings to a Belgian 
named Ost, active in Holland during the German occupation of 
his country. He thinks that ten others, from Aries and St Remy, 
may be by Giran Max, a painter mentioned by Coquiot in Les 
Independants. Max is known to have been acquainted with 
Pissarro, Gachet and Murer. 

One hundred and seventy-four forgeries are listed by de la 
Faille. After completing the two main sections of his Catalogue 
he cautiously leaves unspecified a number of further works. A 
final note indicates that he does not regard his labours as finished. 
Further forgeries must, unfortunately, be expected. 

They are in fact frequently referred to in subsequent years. 
Van Gogh is the favourite artist imitated in the big Parisian 
centres of faked production. Some of these copies are amazingly 
faithful. But new methods of detecting such shams often expose 
them. In August 1948 several hundred drawings and eighty oils 
were brought to the Director of the Municipal Gallery at Amster- 
dam for verification. They were all supposed to be by van Gogh. 
But without exception they proved to be forgeries. The fraudu- 
lent manufacturers of these works could not be discovered. But 
as the public had to be put on its guard against them 'certain 
persons unknown' were cited in a petition filed with the Public 
Prosecutor. 

Van Gogh's 'Self-portrait by Candlelight* was much discussed. 
It had been discovered in 1949 by Charles Lewenthal in a Paris 
caf, and was eventually sold to William Goetz, the Hollywood 
film magnate, for 50,000 dollars. A number of van Gogh special- 
ists were enraptured by this 'masterpiece*, which, with de la 
Faille, they admired as 'one of the most lively of Vincent's 
works'. But others denounced it as a subtle forgery. Van Gogh's 
nephew, who had spent years trying to separate the false from the 
true in his uncle's work, described the self-portrait as an imitation. 

'One word more,' roared Goetz to the painter's nephew, 'and 
1*11 have you arrested for improper language!' But the experts of 

78 



WACKER'S 'VAN GOGHS* 

the Metropolitan Museum, whom he consulted 'could not com- 
mit themselves to recognition of the picture as an original*. On 
the other hand five connoisseurs in Paris told Goete later on 
that they considered the painting 'absolutely genuine*. 

The purchaser's delight, however, soon turned once more to 
gloom. The American Customs demanded an import duty of 
no less than 5000 dollars on the work. Goetz quoted a regulation 
according to which original productions could be imported free. 
The Customs confronted him with the Metropolitan Museum's 
written opinion, signed by four experts, in which no mention 
was made of any proof that the painting was an original. Goetz 
naturally retorted with the contrary evidence of the Paris certificate^ 

Vast sums were spent on further investigation. The United 
States Treasury was said to have set aside 30,000 dollars for the 
purpose. A total amount of something like 125,000 dollars seems 
to have been paid out in fees for expert opinion. Yet no un- 
qualified decision could be reached. Those who considered the 
work genuine cited, among other confirmations of their views, a 
passage in one of the artist's letters, which had meanwhile come 
to light, referring to a portrait study he had made at night. At 
last the Customs let the picture through as a 'proved original*. 
But many doubts about it remained unanswered and a number 
of specialists persisted in regarding the portrait as an imitation 
and therefore a forgery. 

The case was by no means the only one of its kind. There are 
still quite a lot of paintings ascribed to van Gogh the provenance 
of which has never been determined. Their authenticity con- 
tinues 'questionable*. One is constantly hearing of such works 
and contradictory expert opinion concerning them. New pictures 
attributed to the artist are bound to go on appearing. Whether 
they are genuine or not is a matter which will have to be left to 
individual judgment. It is clear that specialists themselves feel 
much uncertainty in this particular field. Van Gogh*s own 
nephew has tried hard to track down every indication of forgery 
in order to protect his uncle's work for the future. But he had to 
abandon his efforts. The reason he advanced for capitulating to 
the forgers is shocking to read. *I had indisputable proofs of 
their activities in my hands. But I found myself faced with 
impregnable defences erected by rich and powerful persons, in 
whose interest it was that certain secrets should not be revealed.* 

79 



CHAPTER 13 



Forgeries of French Paintings 



PICTURE FORGERY began in France as soon as art freed itself from 
close dependence on the medieval cathedral and turned to new, 
profane subjects. As paintings became more and more appreci- 
ated and admired, they were sought after by collectors. The 
more famous works were copied. At that time ideas of true and 
false in art were not those of to-day. No doubt many copies 
were only later given a false attribution or fraudulently put on 
the market as 'originals', so that they became forgeries. 

Measures were taken in France against fraud and imitation as 
early as the seventeenth century. Claude Lorraine (1600-82) tried 
to stop the counterfeiting of his works by producing a book 
which contained sketches of them, together with notes of where 
the originals were to be found. He called it, in Latin, the 'Book 
of Truth*. Similar catalogues were issued by other artists in 
later times. But it is always difficult to ensure that such records 
are complete. Consequently, these 'books of truth' can only be 
used with caution. No doubt some originals by Claude were not 
included, for one reason or another, in his own compilation. It 
is said that his best works are not authenticated by any such notes. 
In any case he did not entirely achieve his object, for the London 
National Gallery and the Palazzo Doria in Rome both maintain 
that they possess the original of a certain picture by him. 

The painter Sebastian Bourdon (1616-71) is known to have 
imitated Claude's works. Bourdon was born at Montpellier and 
after various adventures reached Italy at the age of eighteen. 
There he was employed by a Roman dealer to copy contemporary 
paintings, especially those of Claude and Nicolas Poussin (1593- 
1665). After these 'years of apprenticeship' Bourdon returned to 
Paris in 1637. In 1652 he was active in Sweden, as Court Painter 

80 




Self portrait with pipe by Vincent 
van Gogh (1889). 51 by 45 cm. 
This famous painting was used as a 
model for forgery. 



20 



Forged self portrait of 
Vincent van Gogh. The 
forger has elaborated the 
surface of the painting in 
an attempt to cover up 
his shortcomings. 



21 

'Gypsy Caravan.' Forged van Gogh. Copy of an original in the Louvre, 
Paris. The name of the Dusseldorf dealer, Otto Wacker, is associated 
with one of the great forgery scandals in the history of art. 








22 "Old Montmartre.' Oil painting by Claude Latour Paris, 
in the style of Utrillo. Paintings such as this, while not 
intended as forgeries, have frequently had Utrillo s sig- 
nature added and then been sold for high prices, Utrillo 
forgeries of this kind are numbered in thousands. 




23 

Tahitian Women.' Forgery 
of a Gauguin by Fortunatoof 
Naples. Sold in 1951 as a 
genuine Gauguin for six mil- 
lion francs. The forger has 
betrayed himself by the un- 
skilled way in which he has 
combined various well- 
known elements from dif- 
ferent works by Gauguin. 



FORGERIES OF FRENCH PAINTINGS 

to Queen Christina. Subsequently he is recorded as living in his 
native town, Montpellier, and in Paris. He prospered in the 
capital and died there, a copyist to the end. His versions of 
certain Dutch pictures and of some by the brothers Le Nain are 
mentioned as having been completed during his last years. 

At this date, moreover, a certain swindler is stated to have 
passed off as originals by Claude some paintings executed in Ms 
style by Patel and to have obtained correspondingly high prices 
for them. It is also known that Watoin and van Loo copied and 
imitated works by their teacher Boucher (1703-70) and that 
Marguerite Gerard, the sister-in-law of Jean Honore Fragonard 
(1732-1806), made copies of that master's pictures. Productions 
by Ingres (1780-1867) were imitated in great numbers. A Paris 
connoisseur complained: *In a single month I have been shown 
at least three times as many works as Ingres can possibly have 
painted/ 

Many artists did not regard the imitation and forgery of their 
compositions as falsification or depreciation of the value of their 
work. They showed a certain indulgence to such frauds and 
even, with a magnanimity incomprehensible to the modern mind, 
promoted them. Boucher, for example, is said to have permitted 
copying of his rococo masterpieces by his pupils, to have cor- 
rected such copies and signed the most successful with his own 
name. In thus certifying works by his school as by himself he 
really committed forgery. The counterfeiting of works of art 
by appending a genuine signature to productions not by the 
signatory has been fairly common. Ingres considered a copy, 
executed by his pupil Amaury Duval, of the master's own 
portrait of Bertin, so good that he willingly signed it, thus turning 
it into an 'original'. But Corot (1796-1875) is the artist who is 
most widely known to have signed forgeries. 

A substantial section of the history of picture-forging is 
associated with his name. Few painters have been so systematic- 
ally imitated and counterfeited, for so many decades, right down 
to the present time. According to a famous and often quoted 
witticism: *Of the seven hundred odd proved originals by Corot 
eight thousand are to be found in America alone/ The latest 
estimates of the numbers of works purporting to be by Corot 
which have reached the United States in the last twenty years put 
the figure at over 100,000. 
G 81 



FORGERS, DEALERS, EXPERTS 

The fact is that even to-day the demand in America for Corot's 
pictures remains so extraordinarily heavy that it can only be met 
by the mass production of imitations and forgeries. But those 
of early date are exceptionally difficult to detect, for the master 
took no interest in possible subsequent problems of authenticity. 
He not only did not object to but actually encouraged counter- 
feiting of his productions. He was delighted when pupils copied 
his works so well that they were mistaken for his. 

The following anecdote, which may well be perfectly true, is 
recounted. One day Corot was shown by a pupil one of the 
latter's recent efforts. 'What do you think of it ?' asked the pupil. 
'Pretty good/ replied the venerable master. 'But some passages 
don't quite come off, this one for instance/ He proceeded to 
improve and change certain parts of the painting. 'Oh, dear/ 
the pupil exclaimed, full of admiration. 'Now that you've 
finished it off so beautifully, it's not really mine any more , . . 
surely it won't matter if you sign it? I'd love to have a picture 
of yours!' Corot duly appended his signature to the other's 
work, which he had only corrected. 

After the master's death and the dispersion of his school in 
1875 the 'Corot' industry at once got into its stride. Forgeries 
being cheaper and therefore easier to sell, fraud flourished. But 
some cases of it were soon detected. In 1887 a forger of Corots 
named Vernon was brought to trial and the public learnt how 
widespread such deceptions had become. More and more forged 
works and their perpetrators came to light as time went on. But 
sometimes verdicts had to be qualified, when parts of a painting 
were found to be really by the master. Such pictures were called 
'half' and 'quarter' counterfeits. There were also works produced 
quite innocently by Corot's pupils and only later regarded as 
forgeries owing to the activities of some fraudulent dealer or 
over-confident expert. Even those stamped 'Corot Sale* are by 
no means necessarily considered genuine by modern critics. 

The lawsuit brought by the well-known imitator of Corots, 
Trouillebert, in 1883, was hotly debated. One of his landscapes 
had been sold by the Paris dealer Georges Petit to Alexandre 
Dumas for 12,000 francs with Corot's signature added. Trouille- 
bert sued the dealer, demanding to be recognised as the real 
executant of the work. The Court decided in his favour. Trouille- 
bert's lawyer had excitedly proclaimed: 'My client's honour as 

82 



FORGERIES OF FRENCH PAINTINGS 

well as his professional reputation has been attacked!' But a 
commentator observed at the time: 'Reputation, eh? Well, I'm 
sure he's a delightful artist. But I wonder if anyone would ever 
have heard of him if he hadn't committed forgery?' In 1953 
Georges Braque made a reference to the case in describing the 
difference between the genuine and the spurious work of art. 'A 
style in common/ he said, 'indicates authenticity, mere resem- 
blance a counterfeit. Trouillebert's style resembled Corot's. But 
they had nothing in common!' 

The demand for Corot's paintings continues, though others 
besides specialists are to-day aware of the existence of forgeries. 
Consequently, his works are still being imitated. It is supposed 
that they are mass-produced in so-called 'schools'. No less than 
235 'Corots* were exported to France in 1888 from a single 
Brussels workshop. The painters were paid 300 francs for each 
copy. The Paris counterfeiters added Corot's signature and the 
trademark of the firm that supplied his canvases. The forged 
work was then complete. During the first world war the industry 
was stimulated by the presence of German troops of occupation. 
Soldiers interested in art believed, in their ignorance of the 
background of the trade, that they would be able to pick up 
masterpieces of French painting in the capital, on the spot, so to 
speak, at prices within their means. The Berlin art dealer Paul 
Cassirer reports that after the war some two hundred 'Corots* 
were offered him by soldiers on leave. 'There might have been 
one genuine work among them,' he adds. 'But I didn't dare to 
take it.' Both artists and amateurs of art were amused by the 
number of Corot forgeries being distributed. A popular sketch 
by the painter Forain shows a young woman urging an artist 
to take his works to the dealers. The caption reads: 'Come on, 
dear, get your portfolio and we'll sell the dealers some Corots.* 

Many collectors were desperately anxious to obtain works by 
Corot. A Dr Jousseaune boasted of possessing between two and 
three thousand drawings by the master without ever having paid 
more than no francs each for them. After his death his collection, 
consisting of 2414 oils, water-colours, gouaches, drawings and 
autograph sheets, was shown in London, in 1928. Next year a 
catalogue was published. The items, designated as 'from the 
artist's own collection', were stated to have been produced in 
Corot's studio at Coubron. The master was supposed to have 

83 



FORGERS, DEALERS, EXPERTS 

left them with a certain Gratiot, with whom he had stayed, and 
to have kter bequeathed them to that gentleman. In 1929 Eugene 
Bouvy exposed the trick. Some of the forged works, however, 
when the collection was dispersed, found their way into well- 
known public galleries in England and America. Rene Huyghe 
has described this particular scandal as 'one of the most amazing 
swindles of the day*. 

At the climax of the uproar over Otto Wacker's Van Goghs* 
in 1930 France was shocked by revelations in connection with 
the work of J. F. Millet (1814-75). Forgeries of his pictures had 
been planted on an unsuspecting dealer across the Channel, who 
put seven of them, concocted by Paul Cazot, on exhibition and 
afterwards rejected a perfectly genuine painting by Millet. The 
fraud would perhaps never have been discovered if Cazot's wife, 
who was living apart from him, had not purloined one of his 
pictures and tried to dispose of it in 'uninformed circles*. Her 
activities led to the detection of a 'Millet factory*. Cazot was 
exposed as a forger, in addition, of 'Corots* and 'Daumiers*. His 
miserable daubs were well paid. He received, for example, 
150,000 francs for an alleged 'Millet*. 

The big lawsuit that followed in France in 193 5 excited every- 
one concerned with art. The chief person accused was the 
grandson of the famous Barbizon painter J. F. Millet, whose 
works his descendant had for many years been forging on a large 
scale with the assistance of Paul Cazot. It had proved relatively 
easy for the grandson, by forging certificates to accompany the 
pictures, to place the counterfeits with French, American and 
other private collectors, who had paid him high prices for them. 
The trial disclosed that one London collector had acquired sixty 
of the forged works for a sum of about three million francs. But 
the most astounding statement made at the proceedings was the 
grandson's declaration that all the items in the much frequented 
Millet Gallery at Barbizon were forgeries. 

Forgeries may also be found at important temporary exhibi- 
tions, as the sensational revelations at the Zurich Kunsthaus 
proved in 1936. In a comprehensive survey of the work of 
Gustave Courbet (1819-77) held there it was established, after 
considerable research, that every fifth item was forged and every 
tenth dubious or touched up by another hand. Two of the 
paintings were traced to the known forger Pala. 

84 



FORGERIES OF FRENCH PAINTINGS 

It is clear from recent exhibitions of proved forgeries that 
nearly all the great French painters, as their reputations grow, 
have been more and more imitated. So long as the 'Customs 
Officer' Rousseau only made people laugh, no counterfeiter 
dreamed of copying his primitive style. But as soon as the first 
signs of his future fame became apparent, the fakers pricked up 
their ears. In one of the first big shows devoted to this painter 
Maximilian Gauthier declared about half of the items to be 
imitations or forgeries. Uhde, the friend and biographer of the 
artist, has drawn attention to a book on him in which more than 
twenty-five counterfeit works are reproduced as authentic. In 
1924 two bogus 'Rousseaus* were sold for 50,000 francs. 

A special chapter in any history of French art-forgery should 
be allotted to alleged works by Maurice Utrillo (1883-1950). 
This painter, who achieved renown so suddenly, often used to 
joke about his imitators. His "Moulin de la Galette' ironically 
depicts a poster which reads : 

ARTISTIC PICTURE FACTORY 
LANDSCAPES A SPECIALITY 

FINE OILS BY 

MAURICE UTRILLO V 

RUE CORTOT, PARIS, l8ME 

BEWARE OF IMITATIONS 1 . 

Mme Claude Latour, famous by the name of Zezi de Mont- 
parnasse, is fond of painting in the style of Picasso and also, in 
particular, in that of Utrillo (see illustration). She renders the 
manners of these esteemed artists freely and does not sell her work 
as by themselves. On the other hand the clever twenty-two- 
year-old dealer Jacques Marisse acquired imitations of pictures 
by both painters at prices from 100 to 1000 francs and sold them 
as originals for as much as 70,000 francs. 

When this deception was unmasked in 1948 an expert declared 
that 'every week a spurious Utrillo turns up at the Drouot 
Gallery'. At Marisse's trial Utrillo found to his embarrassment 
that he could not say for certain whether he or Z&zi had painted 
some of the works produced. Consequently, he was unable to 
pronounce them either originals or forgeries. Mme Latour 
commented, in triumph: 'Utrillo has no talent. I paint better 
than he does. I can copy any modern painter/ 

85 



FORGERS, DEALERS, EXPERTS 

In the following year thirty-six counterfeit Utrillos were dis- 
covered. Friends of the artist affirmed that one of his former 
secretaries had been arrested. He had for some time been distri- 
buting cleverly faked works as genuine productions by the 
master. But suspicion was aroused by the certificates of authen- 
ticity which he also forged. Prices running into millions are now 
paid for originals by Utrillo. 

Later on Jean Pinson-Berthet became known as an especially 
successful fabricator of alleged 'Utrillos*. He was condemned in 
1952, in his absence, to five years' imprisonment. The extent of 
his fraud may be deduced from the length of the sentence. The 
pictures he produced are said to have been masterly imitations. 
Experts sometimes pronounced them to be originals, while 
maintaining genuine works by Utrillo to be forgeries by Berthet. 
The latter was reported in the Press to have paid two million 
francs damages to the artist. 

One of Utrillo's friends, the Paris connoisseur Paul Petrides, 
has recently made a profound study of forgeries of this painter's 
productions. In February 1959 he found two at an exhibition. 
He states : 'No doubt the history of these pictures is quite accurate. 
Their owner has a high reputation. The colour scheme has been 
precisely rendered and the technique is remarkable. I happen to 
know the studio that turns out such works. The signature itself 
has a convincing look. But it's all too good to be true. Utrillo's 
shortcomings and faults have been forgotten . . .' Petrides, who 
was also a dealer, recorded all the forged Utrillos that came to 
his notice. About a thousand of them are listed in an appendix 
to his complete catalogue, issued in 1959. Through the in- 
formation he provided the French police were able to confiscate 
eighty in all, which had been traced to various towns in France. 
These fabrications were ordered to be publicly burnt in Paris. 

People laugh at Utrillo's inability to distinguish forgeries of 
his own work. But he was by no means alone in this failing. 
Other important artists have confessed to similar doubts. 
Vlaminck was once reproached for incapacity in this direction, 
His excuse was that he himself had formerly painted a picture in 
the style of C&anne which that master had certified as his own. 
During the last few decades many scandalous forgeries of 
works of art have been disclosed. After the second world war, 
in particular, French paintings were counterfeited in such num- 

86 



FORGERIES OF FRENCH PAINTINGS 

bers that even pictures known to be genuine were sometimes 
scrutinised with distrust. The mass production of 'masterpieces* 
threatened to undermine the prestige of art in general. It was 
natural enough, therefore, that a special police department was 
set up in Paris to deal with the growing menace of art forgery. 

In 1950 the French police seized eighty bogus paintings. These 
were mostly old works by obscure artists to which such dis- 
tinguished signatures as those of Corot, Renoir, Gauguin, 
Utrillo, Bonnard and Vlaminck had been appended. 

In 1951 the police of Geneva found thirty faked pictures in a 
squalid attic occupied by an elderly man. They were mainly 
imitations of the French Impressionists. The man confessed that 
during the last two years he had sold 600 of these forgeries in 
Switzerland alone. He turned out to belong to a Lyons gang 
which smuggled such works into Switzerland and had already 
disposed of hundreds of them in Belgium and Britain. 

In 1952 there were persistent rumours of a 'forgers* metropolis 
on the Seine' which supplied 'masterpieces on demand*. Traces 
of the operations of a 'faker of genius' were found. He had 
produced about a hundred copies of works by the French 
Impressionists, duly provided with certificates of authenticity, 
and sold them at enormous prices. Pictures of almost all the 
important modern artists have been forged in this 'workshop*. 
Six hundred and fourteen of these productions are reported to 
have been confiscated in the last three years. The figure indicates 
how many others must have found their way into collections. 

In the same year it was revealed that the Liibeck painter 
Lothar Malskat had been forging French works of art. He was 
alleged to have imitated six hundred drawings and paintings by 
old and modern masters, especially French. These forgeries were 
more or less ingenious versions of or extracts from well-known 
pictures (see illustration). 

In 1954 an Italian painter was arrested and charged with 
numerous forgeries of the works of the French Impressionists. 
The faked productions had been packed in false-bottomed trunks 
and smuggled into France, Sweden, Switzerland and the United 
States. 

In 1955 fresh Press reports were current about the big forging 
centres. A Paris gang was said to have sold twenty bogus 
'masterpieces* in Switzerland. 15,000 Swiss francs were paid for 



FORGERS, DEALERS, EXPERTS 

a supposed Renoir and 18,000 for a 'Sisley'. In 1957 the French 
Customs seked twelve of such fakes destined for the United 
States* But despatch had been so cleverly organised that neither 
the forgers themselves nor their accomplices could be identified. 
Eighty-four million francs were paid for a bogus Renok. In the 
same year a gigantic fraud concerned with old furniture and 
sculpture was discovered. The President of the Paris Art Dealers* 
Syndicate declared that he and the police between them had 
ascertained that over 90 per cent of all the old furniture sold in 
the last fifty years had been forged. In this field, too, it was 
suspected that a ring with far-reaching ramifications had cornered 
practically the whole international market. 

During the last few years, in consequence of the rising reputa- 
tion of Marc Chagall, the Russian artist who worked in France, 
his paintings have often been forged. His life itself may have 
begun with a falsification by his parents of the date of his birth. 
When his seventieth birthday was being celebrated on the yth 
July 1957, he observed to a friend: 'Am I really seventy? In 
spite of my grey hairs I feel much younger. It's quite possible 
that my parents registered my birth with the wrong date. I was 
the eldest of many children and if my parents could prove that 
I was four years older than my next brother the Tsarist Govern- 
ment would excuse me from military service. Two or three years 
may have been added to the correct date on my birth certificate 
in order to provide evidence that I was the eldest son by four 
years and therefore necessarily required for the support of my 
family/ Such may be the reason why Chagall's birth is ascribed 
to various years between 1887 and 1890. 

Many imitations of Chagall's works have been made and 
distributed without any intention to defraud. As he occasionally 
signed his representations of Jewish subjects in Hebrew script, 
these pictures are easily confused with similar ones by other 
Jewish artists. Paintings by Lissitsky, for example, appeared on 
the market in 1945 as by Chagall. Other instances of works by 
Russian Jews wrongly supposed to be by Chagall were collected 
by Woldemar Klein in 1955 under the title Schri Runst Schri. 
They constitute a warning to purchasers, especially at the present 
time, when many people consider Chagall a typical modern 
artist. 

An odd story is told of the painting of a wedding by the 

88 




24 Han van Meegeren painting 'Christ among the 
Scribes' in prison (1945). When van Meegeren 
confessed that he was the author of several 'Old 
Masters', nobody at first believed him. The 
'Vermeer' which he painted under supervision 
finally convinced the doubters. 




25 

'Portrait of a Man.' Forgery 
of aTerborch by van Meegeren 
(1935-6). On old canvas, 30-5 
by 25 cm. Van Meegeren's 
experimental forgeries were 
exposed during the investiga- 
tion of his case. They showed 
extensive study of the style and 
technique of the old Masters. 




26 

'Woman Drinking.' Forgery 
of a Frans Hals by van Mee- 
geren, (1935-6). On old canvas, 
78 by 66 cm. The well-known 
'Hille Bobbe' by the Haarlem 
Master was the model for this 
forgery, which shows little 
deviation from the original. 




27 'Lady Making Music.' Forgery of a Vermeer by van 
Meegeren (1935-6), On old canvas, 63 by 49 cm. 
A careful study of Vermeer's style and technique 
has produced a convincing forgery. 




28 'A Drinking Party.' Forgery of a Pieter de Hooch by van Meegeren, (1937-8). 
On old canvas, 80 by 69 cm, van Beuningen collection, Vierhouten. The 
well-known collector paid 219,000 gulden for this 'seventeenth-century 
masterpiece'. 



29 'Christ and the Disciples at Emmaus.' Forgery of a Vermeer by 
van Meegeren (1936-7). On old canvas, 115 by 127 cm, Boymans 
Museum, Rotterdam. In 1937 Abraham Bredius declared the 
painting to be a genuine Vermeer of Delft; it was acquired for 
500,000 gulden for the museum in Rotterdam and exhibited. 





30 X-ray photograph of the forgery. It confirmed van Mee- 



31 The Last Supper.' Forgery of a Vermeer by van Meegeren, 
(1940-1). On old canvas, 174 by 244 cm, van Beuningen 



32 'Head of Christ/ Forgery of a Vermeer by van Meegeren 
(1940). On old canvas, 48 by 30 cm, van Beuningen collection, 
Vierhouten. The painting betrays the forger's poverty of 
ideas; he seems to be simply repeating his earlier forgeries. 





33 'Jacob's Blessing.' Forgery of a Vermeer by van Meegeren 
(1941-2). On old canvas, 125 by 115 cm, W. van der Vorm 
collection, Rotterdam. Before being exposed as a forgery, 
the painting was valued at 1,275,000 gulden. 




34 The Washing of the Feet.' Detail of a forgery of aVermeer by 
van Meegeren (1942-3). On old canvas, 115 by 95 cm, property 
of the Dutch Government. In 1943, a sum of 1,250,000 
gulden was paid for this false Vermeer. 



35 'Christ and the Woman Taken in Adultery.' Ffcrgery of a 
Vermeer by van Meegeren (1941-2). On old canvas, 96 by 
88 cm, formerly in the collection of Hermann Goering, who 
paid the enormous sum of 1,650,000 gulden for this 'Vermeer'. 




36 Han van Meegeren in the Amsterdam court in 1947, He 
was sentenced to one year's imprisonment. His world- 
wide swindles amounted to some 800,000. He died in 
prison some months after his conviction. 




FORGERIES OF FRENCH PAINTINGS 

Liibeck forger Lothar Malskat, executed under the influence of 
Chagall. A certain dealer was so delighted by the merits of this 
work, and the poetic and intoxicating effects attained by the 
imitator, that he ventured upon an interesting experiment. He 
showed the picture to the elderly Chagall himself, with the 
remark: Tve found one of your early paintings. But unfortu- 
nately it's not signed.* Chagall examined the canvas. 'It's good 
work/ he said. "But I've painted such a lot that I can't quite 
remember doing this one/ Nevertheless he scrawled his signature 
on the picture with a finely haired brush. The painting was 
subsequently sold to a private collector, for a considerable sum, 
as a curiosity. It is to be hoped that, at a later date still, it won't 
become a forgery! 



CHAPTER 14 



Art Fotgeries under the Thkd Reich 



IN THE precarious days when the Third Reich was trying to give 
a new direction to German civilisation the forgery of works of 
art flourished. The very persons who banned genuine creative 
effort as 'falsified* and 'degenerate 7 were themselves deceived by 
the shoddy and the pretentious. The success of the counter- 
feiters in Germany during the years of National Socialist rule 
was no accident. When orders were given for the 'restoration' 
of medieval frescoes discovered in the cathedral at Schleswig, 
the so-called 'restorers' were expected to reveal the figures of 
ancient German heroes and thus tempted to concoct motives of 
their own. When a turkey was 'found' to have been depicted, 
amateurs of art all over the world were startled. For the bird in 
question originally came from Mexico and was not introduced 
into Europe until the sixteenth century. Consequently the 
turkey could not have been known to medieval painters. The 
Thkd Reich, announced however, that an 'unmistakable proof 
had thus been obtained of the exploration of America by navi- 
gators from Schleswig long before Columbus. 

One of the most subtle frauds of the time was perpetrated on 
Hermann Goring. He bought for the enormous sum of over two 
million marks a bad copy by Han van Meegeren of an original by 
Vermeer, supposing it to be genuine (see illustration). But in his 
delight at finding himself the possessor of a work by that eminent 
Dutch master, the Marshal omitted to have the authenticity of 
his new purchase verified by experts. It was only in the confused 
circumstances of war that tie Dutch forger van Meegeren could 
obtain high prices for his mostly incompetent fabrications with- 
out being exposed. 

In addition to this famous case there were others in which 

90 



ART FORGERIES UNDER THE THIRD REICH 

both Goring and Hitler, each of them so fond of posing as patrons 
of art, fell victims. But most of those concerned are now dead 
and others, naturally enough, decline to testify. It would be a 
laborious process to establish the extent of such frauds. But 
occasionally works of art crop up which formerly belonged to 
National Socialist leaders. Some of these items have proved to 
be forgeries. A chalk drawing, for instance, from Goring's 
collection, was shown at the big exhibition of forged art in Paris 
in 195 5. This work bore the initials P.P.R., which suggested the 
great Flemish master Peter Paul Rubens. But the drawing was 
really a primitive, bungling version of a well-known Rubens 
motive and consequently a forgery. 

Hitler relied on his own aesthetic judgment, which he con- 
sidered infallible. He had originally intended to be a painter or 
architect. But his artistic ability was very moderate and his taste 
was guided rather by the subject of a work and its technical 
craftsmanship than by any purely aesthetic considerations. The 
Munich painter and poet Karl Spit2weg (1808-85), who depicted 
life in small towns, was one of his special favourites. Hitler's 
weakness in this respect was of course exploited by counterfeiters. 
Highly significant 'word-pictures* of the magnate of the 
Third Reich are presented in Hjalmar Schacht's memoirs. They 
indicate the superficiality of Hitler's understanding of art and 
how easily he and his circle were victimised by forgers. 

Schacht, who was then Economics Minister, received on his 
sixtieth birthday, from Hitler, an 'original* painting by Karl 
Spitzweg. It represented a subject well-known from reproduc- 
tions, that of a mail-coach at the frontier, and was entitled: 'Only 
thoughts are free of duty/ Schacht observes: 'I had barely 
glanced at the picture, polished and gleaming under its varnish, 
before I said to my wife: "It can't possibly be genuine." * He 
was interested in art and had noticed that in other works by 
Spitzweg, which he had seen at exhibitions, hairlike cracks had 
appeared, due to age. But there were no such blemishes in the 
painting before him. Its surface was of 'eel-like smoothness*. 

Schacht adds that he addressed Captain Wiedemann, Hitler's 
aide-de-camp, as follows : 'Please convey my sincere thanks to the 
Chancellor for this splendid gift. I see that it is one of Spitzweg*s 
most famous works. I should therefore be very grateful to you 
if you could give me some information about its history. Every 

9* 



FORGERS, DEALERS, EXPERTS 

collector, you know, takes a great interest in the pedigrees, so to 
speak, of his items.' Wiedemann replied: Tm afraid I can't give 
you any such information. I can only tell you that Herr Heinrich 
Hoffmann bought the picture for the Fxihrer.' 

Schacht made up his mind to get to the bottom of the affair. 
He had the painting examined by several experts. They all 
stated positively that It was a forgery. The address of the owner 
of the well-known original was obtained from the Munich dealer 
Zinkgraf. It was found adorning the flat of a senior officer at 
Regensburg. The counterfeit could therefore be compared with 
its model, the authenticity of which was above suspicion. Signi- 
ficant variations were found. The pictures were of different sizes. 
The original was on canvas, the other on wood, of a peculiar, 
exotic kind. At a later stage it was discovered that this particular 
wood had only been imported into Germany after Spitzweg's 
time. Surprising and incomprehensible dissimilarities of colour 
between the two works were noted. After prolonged study it 
was established that Schacht's painting had been copied from an 
inferior colour-print issued by Hanfstaengl at Munich. The 
'artist*, ignorant of the original, had indulged his own caprices 
in reproducing the colour scheme of the print. This proceeding 
had been brought to the notice of the publisher, who immediately 
withdrew his issue. But he was unable, of course, to prevent one 
of the series, which had meanwhile been acquired, from being 
employed in the Counterfeiting of a counterfeit'. 

Schacht did not hesitate to inform Hitler that his gift had been 
proved a fake. The latter wrathfully ordered the work to be 
re-examined. A few months later he told the astonished Minister 
that careful investigation and further opinions had established 
the authenticity of the picture. Schacht asked to see the new 
report. But he never received it. Many years later it was revealed 
in the process of a lawsuit that the certificate in question had been 
prepared by one of the forgers concerned, who had been in- 
structed to draw it up by Heinrich Hoffmann, Hitler's personal 
buyer and photographer. 

The case would have attracted little attention if a sensational 
trial involving art forgery had not been instituted shortly before 
the war. The proceedings disclosed the fabrication of fifty-four 
paintings alleged to be by Spitzweg, including the one owned 
by Schacht. In 1936 a rich woman in the Rhineland had paid 

92 



ART FORGERIES UNDER THE THIRD REICH 

132,000 marks for four important 'originals' by the artist. In the 
apartment of this admirer of Spitzweg one of these apparently 
valuable works, hung near the radiator, had begun to show signs 
of warping. It was found that the colours of all the pictures had 
been laid on very thin panels glued over thicker boards. This 
discovery naturally led to suspicion of fraud. 

Further investigation proved that the supporting boards were 
made of the African mahogany known as okoume. But it was 
known that Spitzweg used only cedarwood, cardboard and 
canvas. Old consignment lists in the Hamburg public records 
relating to industrial timber showed that the first three tons of 
okoume wood were delivered in 1891, six years after Spitzweg's 
death. This fact alone was evidence enough that the four sup- 
posed Spit2wegs were imitative forgeries. 

Thereupon the Cologne gallery which had sold the works 
sued the agent who had supplied them and the whole affair was 
made public. It had begun in the studio of a completely innocent 
copyist of Spitzweg's paintings named Toni, who lived at 
Traunstein. He had never seen any originals and was content to 
work from reproductions, mainly on ordinary postcards. He 
very honestly signed his own name to his productions, adding 
the note ' After Spitzweg'. Since about 1935 he had been selling 
them for about seventy to a hundred marks apiece to the South 
German dealer Friedrich Blum. The pictures were then turned 
into 'old originals' by the Munich 'decorator and restorer' 
Hastreiter, who charged between 100 and 130 marks for each 
item. In this process the top layer of plywood was removed and 
the painting mounted on artificially aged okoum6. Toni's name 
and note were erased and replaced by Spitzweg's signature. The 
whole surface of the picture was then coated with a certain 
varnish which, in drying, produced the typical 'cracks of age'. 
The forgery was elementary enough. But the results, sold 
separately, realised between 20,000 and 40,000 marks. The 
swindlers were given sentences of up to ten years' penal servitude 
at the Stuttgart Criminal Court Assizes. 

Schacht tells the story of another crudely forged painting 
received by General Field-Marshal von Blomberg, on the 
occasion of his fortieth year of service, as a gift from the National 
Socialist Party. It was a portrait in oils of Marshal Blucher. The 
work had been taken from a contemporary copy of a portrait of 

93 



FORGERS, DEALERS, EXPERTS 

Bliicher in the possession of the Three Rafters Lodge at Munster 
in Westphalia. As the dealer knew that he could scarcely hope 
to dispose, in the Third Reich, of a portrait showing the insignia 
of freemasonry, he had all such compromising implements 
painted over. 

Schacht thought it might amuse the Field-Marshal to learn 
how his picture had been transformed and falsified. He showed 
him what had been obliterated and photographs of the original. 
But Blomberg 'obviously took a serious view of the matter*. He 
sent all the evidence on to Rudolf Hess. The Fiihrer's deputy 
replied in a four-page letter of apology, explaining that the 
painting had been bought in rather a hurry. For months, he 
wrote, the Party had been looking for a suitable picture to give 
the Marshal, but hadn't found quite the right one. Then, at the 
last moment, the Bliicher portrait had turned up. Nothing was 
known of its origin in a masons' lodge, otherwise of course the 
purchase would never have been made. Hess's final sentence was 
characteristic. He hoped that the recipient would be pleased 
with the gift now that fortunately all the masonic insignia and 
symbols had been removed. 



94 



CHAPTER 15 



Han van Meegeren 



THE DUTCH PAINTER Han van Meegeren caused the greatest 
sensation ever made by a forger of works of art. After the first 
appearance of this mysterious personage as a counterfeiter of 
pictures more and more "disclosures* and startling reports were 
current about him. He was said to be an 'important artist' who 
only became a forger as the result of prejudiced criticism of his 
work. He was represented as a belated 'genius* comparable with 
the Netherlands masters of the seventeenth century. Other 
writers described him as a forger who had cheated the art world 
out of about ten million marks or as a commercial opportunist 
whose productions were only fit to illustrate magazines. Contra- 
dictory and false rumours repeatedly excited curiosity about the 
man's career and character. 

On the 29th May 1945 two Dutch police officers called upon 
Han van Meegeren, a professional decorative artist, at his 
Amsterdam studio, No. 321 Keizersgracht. He was surprised to 
learn from them that his name appeared in the accounts kept by 
the art dealer Goudstikker, which had been confiscated by order 
of the Government. The entries clearly proved that in 1942, 
during the German occupation of Holland, van Meegeren had 
sold to Alois Miedl, the director of a German firm who was 
known as a buyer for Hermann Goring, a genuine work by 
Johannes Vermeer of Delft (1632-75). As Vermeer's pictures 
are extremely rare, they were considered a national possession 
and their export was forbidden. Since, therefore, van Meegeren 
had sold one to the hostile Occupying Power, he had rendered 
himself guilty of 'collaboration*. 

The painter tried to talk himself out "of this embarrassing 
situation. He alleged that the picture had been offered, without 

95 



FORGERS, DEALERS, EXPERTS 

his knowledge or consent, to Goudstikker by a friend, who had 
mentioned van Meegeren's name 'in order to do him a service*. 
As to the previous history of the painting, van Meegeren said it 
had formerly been owned by an Italian. In this story the artist 
involved himself in so many contradictions that it was seriously 
suspected he had engineered the transfer of Dutch national 
property from the possession of Fascist Italy to that of National 
Socialist Germany. Meanwhile the advancing American troops 
had found the picture in question among the art treasures of the 
former Marshal of the Reich. He had paid 1,650,000 gulden for 
the work. 

Van Meegeren was told that the sale constituted high treason. 
It would be necessary to find out where the painting had come 
from, who had been its previous owner and who had negotiated 
the disposal of it. It seemed obvious that dealings with such a 
rare and valuable work of art must have been the concern of quite 
a lot of people. Van Meegeren, however, persisted in his evasions 
and self-contradictions. No names or definite information of 
any kind could be extracted from him. Consequently, he was 
arrested. 

On the 1 2th July he declared, under cross-examination, that 
he wished to make a confession. He proceeded to affirm, to 
everyone's astonishment, that he had not 'collaborated'. He had 
not, he said, defrauded the Dutch Government, but only the 
German Marshal. 'The painting discovered among Goring's 
possessions,* he stated, 'representing "Christ and the Adulteress", 
is not a Vermeer, as you assume, but a Han van Meegeren. I 
myself executed it/ This allegation was interpreted as an adroit 
subterfuge by the artist, who thus boasted that he could re- 
produce the style and beauty of the works of the celebrated Delft 
master. Van Meegeren, nevertheless, insisted on the truth of his 
statement. He described his disappointment at the reception of 
his works and how he had found consolation in familiarising 
himself with the art of former days. 'You must and shall believe 
what I sayP he cried out, at one point, in a passion. He went on 
to explain in detail how for many years his one ambition had 
been to become a famous painter. But wherever he showed his 
works they were either ignored or adversely criticised in the 
Press. Hardly anyone appreciated his style, though it had been 
formed on those of the great masters. He added: 



HAN VAN MEEGEREN 

'One unlucky day, driven half distracted by my anxiety as a 
result of these considerations, I determined to revenge myself on 
the critics, by proving that they had underestimated me. I 
decided to execute a painting entirely in my own manner and 
according to my own ideas of art, but using the colours employed 
in the seventeenth century. I took care to produce this work in 
such a way that it would pass the five tests usually imposed to 
ascertain whether a seventeenth-century picture is genuine. I 
meant my creations to be hung in a Dutch national collection. 
And that is what happened I* 

He explained that, after long preparations, he had not only 
painted the picture eventually bought by Goring, but also a 
number of works in the style of Pieter de Hooch (1629-77) and 
others in Vermeer's manner. The latter included the much 
admired 'Christ at Emmaus' in the Boymans Museum at Rotter- 
dam. But these statements, too, were only greeted with smiles 
of contempt. These newly discovered works, particularly the 
'Emmaus*, had been so much praised that the idea of forgery 
could not be entertained. It was simply supposed that van 
Meegeren was lying. His attention was called to the enthusiastic 
ascription of the 'Emmaus* to Vermeer by Bredius. 'Surely you 
will not seriously maintain*, van Meegeren was told, 'that you 
painted such a picture as that, which the entire world regards as 
genuine!* It was in fact the general view that this work could 
not possibly have been forged. The two experts in restoration 
employed by the Eijksmuseum, who had been familiar for 
decades with original works of the seventeenth century, declared 
that tests of the technique alone proved that the 'Emmaus* could 
not have been executed in the style of the period by a modern 
artist. 

Van Meegeren retorted: 'Naturally, I made no mistakes/ In 
the course of prolonged hearings he described how he had 
manufactured canvases and colours corresponding with those of 
the seventeenth century and made a close study of the methods, 
which he then imitated, of the old masters. For it was only as a 
result of such proceedings that his productions could withstand 
every test. The pictures had been examined by experts. The 
'Emmaus* had been passed as old and genuine. Specimens of the 
colours had been dissolved in alcohol. Chemical reaction had 
demonstrated the presence of real white lead. Rontgen photo- 

H 97 



FORGERS, DEALERS, EXPERTS 

graphy also revealed white lead, with no suspicious signs of 
underpainting. Clear traces of genuine lapis lazuli were disclosed 
under the microscope. Last but not least, stylistic considerations 
excluded any possibility of faking. The experts were unanimous 
that the work could only have been produced in the seventeenth 
century. 

It was agreed that van Meegeren would have to give ocular 
proof of his dexterity if he wanted people to believe that he had 
created the 'Vermeers* in question. He was just as ready as 
Israel Ruchomovsky and Alceo Dossena to do so (see illustration). 
From July to September 1945, while in prison at Amsterdam, he 
painted a new 'Vermeer'. The subject he chose, ironically 
enough, was one famous in art history, "Christ among the Scribes', 
an illustration of the text in St Luke's gospel (111.46) : "And it 
came to pass that after three days they found him in the temple, 
sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them and asking 
them questions.' Van Meegeren might well have compared him- 
self, as he stood painting among the experts that summer, with 
the Lord in the Temple. He, too, was concerned to convince 
incredulous scholars of the truth. He painted on old canvas, with 
old colours and genuine old brushes of badgers' hair, entirely in 
the style of the seventeenth-century masters. He reproduced 
signs of age, the disintegration of hues and above all the delicate 
marks of cracking, with such deceptive accuracy that when the 
picture was finished no one could believe it was not a really old 
work. It was not so good as his earlier forgeries. But that was 
intelligible enough in the circumstances. Nevertheless, it ful- 
filled its purpose. It proved that not only the 'Emmaus' but also 
the other pictures for which van Meegeren claimed responsibility 
had been painted by him. 

Those who had watched this 'testimonial' being produced 
under their own eyes were enraptured. They had come to scoff 
and now they had seen something they would never have be- 
lieved possible. They lauded to the skies this new 'miracle of the 
painter's art, which almost transports one to a different world'. 
They extolled the dazzling brilliance of the colours, especially the 
blue of Christ's robe, with its underpainting of indigo and lapis 
lazuli enamelling 'reflecting the spectator like a mirror'. Gotfried 
Homans, in the first flush of his enthusiasm, proclaimed: 'We 
have lost a Vermeer, but gained a van Meegeren!' 



HAN VAN MEEGEREN 

The representatives of the law, who had been assembling 
evidence of forgery for the last two years, were not so pleased 
with van Meegeren's triumph. They proceeded to bring to light 
the career and activities of this enigmatic personality, both artist 
and counterfeiter. Four paintings found in his studio were 
obviously 'experimental'. They comprised the portrait of a man 
in the style of Gerard Terborch (1617-81), a version of the *Hille 
Bobbe', by the Haarlem master Frans Hals (1580-1666) and two 
depictions of a lady, reading and 'making music* respectively, in 
the manner of Vermeer of Delft. The derivation of these works 
from old originals was quite evident. No doubt van Meegeren 
himself had recognised the fact and for this reason retained them 
in his own possession (see illustrations). 

At van Meegeren's trial, which lasted from the 2 8th October 
to the i zth November 1947, the forgeries with which he had 
deceived the art world between 1937 and 1943 were for the first 
time recognised. They were: 

1. 'Christ and the Disciples at Emmaus' (see illustration), 
painted at Roquebrune in southern France between 1936 and 
1937 and sold by the dealers Strijbis and Hoogendijk to the 
Boymans Foundation for 550,000 gulden. The picture was 
exhibited at that important Rotterdam gallery as one of its 
masterpieces. Its attribution to Vermeer by Abraham Bredius 
had convinced everyone that it was an original work by the Delft 
artist. 

2. 'A Drinking Party' (see illustration) in the style of and 
inscribed with the monogram (P.D.H.i658) of Pieter de Hooch. 
Produced in southern France shortly after the 'Emmaus' and sold 
in 1939 to the collector van Beuningen for 219,000 gulden. 

3. 'The Card Players' in the same style and with the same 
initials. Probably painted at Nice in 1939. Acquired in 1941 by 
the Rotterdam collector W. van der Vorm for 220,000 gulden. 

4. 'The Last Supper' in the style and with the signature of 
Vermeer of Delft. Painted about 1939 and left unsold in the 
studio of van Meegeren's former residence, where it was only 
discovered after his death. This picture was copied in his 'Last 
Supper' of 1940-1. 

5. 'Head of Christ' (see illustration) in Vermeer's style and 
bearing his signature. Painted in 1940 at Laren in Holland. Ac- 
quired in 1941 by the collector van Beuningen for 400,000 gulden. 

99 



FORGERS, DEALERS, EXPERTS 

6. 'The Last Supper* (see illustration) in Vermeer's style and 
bearing his signature. Painted 1940-1 at Laren in Holland. 
Acquired in 1941 by van Beuningen for 1,600,000 gulden. 

7. 'Jacob's Blessing' (see illustration) in Vermeer's style and 
bearing his signature. Painted at Laren in 1941-2. Acquired in 
1942 by the Rotterdam collector W. van der Vorm for 1,275,000 
gulden. 

8. 'Christ and the Adulteress* (see illustration) in Vermeer's 
style and bearing his signature. Painted at Laren 1941-2. 
Acquired in 1942 by Hermann Goring for 1,650,000 gulden. 

9. 'The Foot-washing* (see illustration) in Vermeer's style and 
bearing his signature. Painted at Laren 1941-2. Acquired by the 
Dutch Government in 1943 for 1,250,000 gulden. 

This statement indicates that van Meegeren had obtained some 
seven million gulden under false pretences. Of this sum he 
himself received 5,460,000 gulden. 

It is rather pathetic to remember the prices paid for Vermeer's 
work in the seventeenth century. The painter was so poor that 
he could not even raise six gulden for his admission to the Guild 
of St Luke. All he could manage was one and a half gulden. After 
the master's death the sums paid for his pictures which were by 
then more highly esteemed, fluctuated between 17 and 200 
gulden. At that time his well-known 'Lacemaker', now in the 
Louvre, fetched 28 gulden and the 'Little Street*, to-day in the 
Rijksmuseum at Amsterdam, 72 gulden. Top price was reached 
by the 'View of Delft*, preserved at the Mauritshuis of the Hague. 
That work was sold for 200 gulden. Van Meegeren began by 
charging a thousand times as much for his forgeries and eventually 
raised his prices well above the million mark. 

Deliberate fraud was the main accusation brought against van 
Meegeren at his trial. After the question of responsibility for 
the disputed works had been cleared up and it was proved that 
van Meegeren had painted the supposed Vermeers and Pieter de 
Hoochs the fact of conscious deception was duly established. 
The pictures had been painted on old canvas, with old colours 
and brushes, in the style of former times, with signs of age and, 
above all, with the forged signature of Vermeer and the forged 
date and initials of Pieter de Hooch. These works had been sold 
by the forger at prices which they could only have fetched if they 
had been offered as original creations of the masters named. Van 

100 



HAN VAN MEEGEREN 

Meegeren's point that the pictures would not be considered 
genuine if such prices were not demanded did not exonerate him 
from fraud. His frank confession and poor state of health, the 
Public Prosecutor stated, were the only reasons why the full 
penalty provided by law for such a Running swindle*, four years* 
imprisonment, was not called for. Judgment was pronounced on 
the 1 2th November 1947. Van Meegeren was sentenced to serve 
one year in prison (see illustration). 

He did not appeal. He merely begged to be allowed to paint 
during his incarceration. It was rumoured at the time that the 
'artist* had received numerous commissions, emanating from the 
most varied levels of the popuktion. It was further reported 
that on the very day van Meegeren began to serve his sentence 
he signed a contract with an American firm to illustrate a book 
on 'Tracing-Paper Art'. But the strain of the long hours under 
examination and of the trial itself had told on van Meegeren. He 
was admitted to hospital. On the 30th December 1947, at the 
age of fifty-eight, he died of a heart attack in the Valerius Nursing 
Home. 

But the excitement caused by the revelations in this case by 
no means ceased with the death of the forger. He continued to 
be the subject of public debate. 

Was he a 'misguided artist* or a top-ranking swindler ? Passion- 
ate defenders of his 'misunderstood and unappreciated genius* 
were to be found even in artistic circles. At the opening of an 
exhibition in the Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem, the painter 
Verwey declared: 'Van Meegeren has a right to our admiration. 
I know that many artists agree with me in thinking so. He 
deserves a statue.* The Neue Zeitung had demanded that van 
Meegeren should be 'punished* by having to 'prepare at his own 
expense eight small brass plates engraved with the words "School 
of Vermeer of Delft" or "School of Pieter de Hooch". These 
plates should be affixed to the forged pictures. Those that 
already hang in public collections should remain there, for they 
are fine works,* 

But the art world at large regarded van Meegeren as a clever 
exploiter of popular taste and magazine illustrator rather than 
'artist*. He was censured for resorting to Christian themes 
simply as a good selling line and also in order to avoid too close 
a comparison with Vermeer*s extant paintings. The attitude of 

101 



FORGERS, DEALERS, EXPERTS 

collectors to van Meegeren's works was clear enough at the 
auction of his effects in September 1950. It had been hoped that, 
in view of earlier assessments of the value of his pictures and of 
the claims for compensation which had been lodged, the proceeds 
would run into several millions. But the total of the bids made 
amounted to only 226,599 gulden. So slight an interest in the 
forger's productions is the clearest possible proof that his 
pretensions as an 'artist' were not accepted. 

Yet there were still a number of people who were determined 
for personal reasons to follow up the case and give it a new 
aspect. Van Meegeren's family and friends took every opportunity 
to call attention to his extraordinary importance as a professional 
artist and special talent for the interpretation of former Dutch 
painting. In January 1951, four months after the Amsterdam 
auction, van Meegeren's son invited representatives of the Paris 
Press to hear some further 'sensational disclosures' about his father. 

He told them that the 'Boy with a Pipe' in the Frans Hals Room 
of the Groningen Museum was by van Meegeren, as was also the 
'Laughing Cavalier' in the Hofstede de Groot Collection. This 
last painting had attracted much attention in 1926, when it had 
been discovered by connoisseurs and sold for 50,000 gulden. 
Other forgeries by van Meegeren, according to his son, were the 
'Lady with a Blue Hat', supposedly by Vermeer, in the Thyssen 
Collection and also a counterpart to the famous 'Head of a Girl' 
in the Mauritshuis at The Hague. Although the younger van 
Meegeren gave the dates of these alleged forgeries by his father, 
it was found that in some cases the pictures had actually been 
authenticated before the time of production stated by the speaker. 
Consequently, his 'disclosures' were not taken very seriously and 
did not lead to any further developments in the affair. 

Later on van Meegeren's widow repeatedly supplied authors 
with 'reliable data' concerning his activities. But this information 
turned out to be romanticised melodrama calculated to arouse 
sympathy for the 'misguided artist' by providing the 'human 
background' to his work and suggesting that the critics them- 
selves were responsible, to a certain extent, for his forgeries. 

In 1958 his sister arranged an exhibition of his pictures in 
connection with the 'Germany and Holland Cultural Week' at 
Arnsberg. Involuntary smiles greeted the statement that in this 
small Westphalian town there were displayed works of an 

102 



HAN VAN MEEGEREN 



'artist' representing modern Dutch painting and 'undoubtedly 
one of the most interesting figures of European art in recent 
times'. The intention was evidently to promote recognition of 
this 'man of many talents', 'gifted with genius', a decade after his 
death, and to efface the memory of his forgeries. In the same year 
a Haarlem dealer undertook the same task by opening an 'Exhi- 
bition of the Complete Works of Han van Meegeren'. Advertise- 
ments of this enterprise drew attention to the high prices obtained 
for the paintings as an index to their artistic value. Further 
characteristic signs of the effort to play down the significance of 
van Meegeren's forging operations may perhaps be found in the 
assertions that his genuine productions were being imitated by 
forgers, especially abroad, and sold for large sums. 

But another aspect of the case of van Meegeren has often, 
during the last ten years, come to the notice of artistic society, 
with incomparably more disturbing effect. The Brussels 'con- 
noisseur and picture restorer' J. Decoen expressed the opinion, 
soon after van Meegeren's confession, that the Dutch painter in 
question was not telling the truth when he boasted of being 
responsible for all the works in dispute. The two 'Pieter de 
Hoochs', Decoen affirmed, might well be genuine productions 
of the seventeenth century (see illustration). The 'Emmaus' and 
'Last Supper' in van Beuningen's collection were not, according 
to Decoen, van Meegeren's work at all, but real Vermeers (see 
illustrations). The expert went on to say that it was these two 
works by Vermeer which van Meegeren had taken as models for 
his forgeries of the other four 'Vermeers' (see illustrations). 
While years of research had been employed in tracing 'Vermeer* 
to van Meegeren it was now necessary to trace 'van Meegeren* 
to Vermeer! 

Shortly after van Meegeren's death van Beuningen, as the 
owner of several forgeries by the deceased, publicly found fault 
with Professor Coremans, who had given expert evidence at the 
trial. He reproached the Belgian scholar with 'frivolous* state- 
ments and irresponsible confirmation of the forgeries. J. Decoen 
wrote a book with the startling title Back to the Truth ! in which 
he attempted to reopen the whole case and 'prove* the authen- 
ticity of both van Beuningen's 'Last Supper' and the 'Emmaus*. 
This volume, together with other publications and lectures, 
caused considerable bewilderment even among the knowledgeable. 

103 



FORGERS, DEALERS, EXPERTS 

No new light of any real importance was thrown on the 
matter. Certain questions of detail cropped up and attempts 
were made to use them as new 'proofs'. For example, the contro- 
versy over resin continued for years. Both van Meegeren and 
Coremans had referred to an artificial resin first discovered in the 
nineteenth century and utilised in painting. Later it was declared 
that the hardening qualities attributed by Coremans to this 
artificial resin alone might also be characteristic of an old natural 
resin and that for this reason the employment of artificial resin 
should not have been represented as part of the evidence for 
forgery. The question which resin was used could not be clearly 
decided. Consequently, those who doubted van Meegeren's 
responsibility for the pictures continued to regard the problem 
of their origin as unsettled. 

Still more efforts were made to establish the authenticity of 
the paintings. The history of known forgeries is full of instances 
of collectors concerned to maintain the value of their possessions 
as well as their own self-respect. In the van Meegeren case years 
of exertion failed to unearth any new data. This state of affairs 
was confirmed by an action brought by van Beuningen's heirs at 
Brussels in 195 5 against the expert who had certified the forgeries. 
The hearing showed clearly that the Amsterdam proceedings 
had been conducted with the utmost thoroughness and the 
verdict of forgery justified. 

In April 1959 yet another 'sensational disclosure' surprised the 
public in connection with this matter. Professor Josef Eigen- 
berger, a Viennese specialist in picture restoration, proved by 
chemical and X-ray tests that the "Last Supper' had not been 
produced in the seventeenth but in the twentieth century (see 
illustration). The surprise element was contained in his statement 
that van Meegeren could be 'fairly safely assumed' to have 
employed an assistant in the production of both this painting and 
the 'Emmaus' (see illustration). Important passages in both works 
could not, in the Professor's opinion, e be ascribed beyond doubt 
to van Meegeren'. The general bewilderment was still further 
increased by this information. The view that van Meegeren had 
falsely represented himself to be responsible for the pictures 
gained renewed currency. But quite apart from the minor ques- 
tion of a potential 'colleague', the new Viennese data did at any 
rate confirm the fact of forgery. 

104 



HAN VAN MEEGEREN 

Proof that Han van Meegeren painted these pictures is not 
only forthcoming from the "specimen* he produced under the 
eyes of the experts but also from the intensive tests conducted 
by other specialists over a period of years. His own statements 
were thus verified. He had explained, for instance, that he had 
painted the 'Emmaus' over an old work which had been scraped 
off except for a single child's head at a point he was able to 
indicate precisely. An X-ray photograph in fact revealed the 
head of a girl in the space between the jug and the hand of 
Christ (see illustration). Stylistic as well as technical considera- 
tions disclosed van Meegeren's characteristic methods in both 
the 'Emmaus* and the 'Last Supper'. 

The case as a whole attracted the attention of the whole 
world to the dangers inherent in the forgery of works of art and 
at the same time to the need for combating fraud in this direction. 
In the years that followed many publications, films and stage 
plays dealt with the theme in general. A comprehensive exhi- 
bition called False and True was held for the first time, in Amster- 
dam. It was afterwards shown in Germany, Switzerland and 
America. In 1952, also at Amsterdam, an Institute was founded 
for the detection of such forgeries. It provides an information 
service for any amateur seeking expert opinion on a picture. 



105 



CHAPTER 16 



The Liibeck art forgery scandal 



WHEN THE scandalous revelations of van Meegeren's activities 
were made public and he was unmasked in detail at his trial in 
1947, many people believed that the opportunities for such 
forgeries had been greatly reduced. In Europe especially con- 
noisseurs and amateurs alike were supposed to have been put on 
the alert and in a position, with the help of modern technical 
resources, to identify spurious works. It was stated again and 
again, in conversation and in print, that there was now no need 
to worry, for all the swindlers' tricks were already known and 
even 'absolutely perfect art forgery' had been detected. 

It could not have been suspected at the time that almost as 
soon as van Meegeren had begun his counterfeiting operations 
others had been set on foot in Schleswig-Holstein, only a few 
hundred miles from van Meegeren's own studio. They were to 
result in an equal decline of respect for the art of former days and 
to attract equal attention throughout the world. 

But it was only fifteen years later that the matter came to light 
through the forger's own admissions. 

On the 9th May 1952 the hitherto unknown painter Lothar 
Malskat made certain surprising statements, in public, which at 
first caused more amusement than serious interest. He declared 
that the much admired medieval frescoes in the choir of the 
church of St Mary at Liibeck had not been reinstated and restored, 
as was generally assumed, but were new creations, and therefore 
forgeries, by himself, acting as assistant to the restorer Dietrich 
Fey (see illustration). This confession was practically ignored at 
the time. Artistic and ecclesiastical circles in the city knew that 
the assistant and his principal had fallen out. It was supposed 
that Malskat might be avenging himself in this way on Fey, who 

106 



THE LUBECK ART FORGERY SCANDAL 

was well known as a specialist on restoration in northern Germany. 

As a result of a heavy air raid on Liibeck on the night of Palm 
Sunday, the 29th March 1942, the church of St Mary had been 
burnt out. Layers of whitewash had peeled off the interior walls 
in the heat, revealing important remains of hitherto unknown 
medieval frescoes under the high windows of the nave and on 
pillars and vaulting. Photographs, tracings and copies were 
taken of these paintings long before July 1948, when Dietrich 
Fey and his assistant began the work of restoration. 

Fey was known, through the restorations he had carried out in 
Schleswig Cathedral and many other churches in northern 
Germany, to be of unimpeachable character both as man and 
artist. In 1951, on the seven-hundredth anniversary of the 
founding of St Mary's church at Liibeck, the building was re- 
opened to the public. The paintings were then examined by 
experts. Some doubts were expressed as to whether Fey had 
invariably represented the originals with complete accuracy. But 
in general his restorations were considered 'exemplary' by both 
specialists and lay observers. The paintings were highly esteemed, 
as *one of the most important discoveries ever made in Europe*. 
Grabke, Director of the Liibeck Museum, wrote a book on the 
subject in which he stated: 'Ideas hitherto current as to the 
original aspect of Gothic brick interiors will have to be revised 
in the light of the merits of the works here recovered/ Hirschfeld, 
a member of the National Trust, welcomed the pictures as 'the 
most important and extensive ever disclosed in Germany, in fact 
one of the finest intact frescoes of the thirteenth and fourteenth 
centuries extant throughout western Europe*. At a meeting of 
the West German National Trust Fey's work was unanimously 
approved. Application was made in 1951 for a sum of no less 
than 150,000 marks for further necessary restorations. It was 
learned later than 85,000 marks in all had been earmarked for the 
purpose. 

When, therefore, Lothar Malskat announced a year later that 
he had himself forged the paintings in the choir, the statement 
could only be greeted with a pitying smile. The Press wrote of 
*a painter who had gone crazy'. Comment was solidly in favour 
of Fey, who had been thus accused of such grave misconduct. 
In general, he was thought to stand in no need of defence. 

Malskat, in order to gain a hearing, was obliged to give proof 

107 



FORGERS, DEALERS, EXPERTS 

of his allegations. It is in this sense that his repeated explanations 
and amplifications of them are to be understood. He drew 
attention to the models he had used in executing the new frescoes, 
referring specifically to illustrations in Bernath's History of Fresco 
Painting. The reference was checked by the Press. Die Welt 
published side by side reproductions of the ninth-century portrait 
of a Coptic saint preserved in the Kaiser Friedrich Museum at 
Berlin and of a section of the alleged medieval fresco in the 
church of St Mary at Liibeck. The resemblance was so striking 
as to render their relationship almost certain. The comparison 
aroused widespread attention and led to the view that the St 
Mary paintings were quite possibly forged. But in Liibeck itself 
artistic and ecclesiastical society attributed no significance to the 
newspaper's reproductions and refused to discuss them. 

In August 1952 Malskat also admitted that he had forged 
medieval paintings while engaged on restoration work in Schles- 
wig and Ratzeburg cathedrals (see illustrations). He mentioned 
other forgeries of his in the Hospital of the Holy Spirit, the 
church of St Catherine and the cathedral at Liibeck, as well as in 
smaller churches of the neighbourhood. But his assertions were 
repeatedly repudiated as false, most emphatically of all by the 
persons chiefly concerned. It was said that the allegations were 
dictated by the ambition of a minor artist, which took the form 
of these rash and irresponsible 'confessions*. 

Astonishment reached its height when on the 8th October 
Malskat accused himself of having forged a large number of 
drawings and paintings supposed to be by old and new masters, 
which he had sold through Fey's agency (see illustration). 
Hitherto he had only confessed to the forgery of old religious 
paintings. But he now included the direct counterfeiting of kter 
works. Six hundred productions *in the styles of Rembrandt, 
Watteau, Munch, Hodler, Liebermann, Barlach, Degas, Corot, 
Renoir, Gauguin, Utrillo, Matisse, Rousseau, Pasquin and 
Chagall were mentioned. It was stated that one picture forged 
in the style of Chagall had been recognised by the master as his 
own work and thereby 'authenticated*. 

The Public Prosecutor had already taken a hand. On the 25th 
August 1952 Malskat's allegations were officially investigated. 
The counterfeits stated to have been produced between 1945 and 
1950 were studied. A surprise visit paid to Dietrich Fey's residence 

108 



THE LUBECK ART FORGERY SCANDAL 

resulted in the discovery of seven forged paintings . Consequently, 
on the 9th October, the latter was taken into custody. It was then 
revealed that Malskat himself had also offered forgeries for sale 
in 1948 and been arrested in Bremen for this proceeding. These 
data indicated either art forgery on a grand scale or simply the 
ambition of an 'insignificant little artist' who wanted to be 
thought 'important' in his native town. 
The next sensation was the report, issued on the zist October 

1952, of the Research Committee charged with investigation of 
the frescoes in St Mary's Church. This investigation had been 
long delayed. It was only undertaken as the result of public 
demand and after Malskat's other forgeries had been made known. 
At first it was still believed that work in the choir had consisted 
only of the restoration of traces of ancient painting to the original 
state. But eventually X-ray photography proved that all the out- 
lines were of recent date. There were no signs whatever of 
medieval remains. Clear proof of forgery was thus obtained (see 
illustration). 

But the Liibeck citizens concerned maintained that this proof 
applied only to the choir. They continued to deckre that the 
frescoes of the nave, revealed when the church was burnt out, 
were obviously originals. Malskat, however, retorted that even 
these were new, his own work, and accordingly counterfeit (see 
illustrations). Further investigation confirmed his statements. 
The nave frescoes had to be acknowledged as imitative and recent. 

Malskat had thus proved that, contrary to the unanimous 
opinions of scholars, the paintings in dispute were really forgeries 
by himself. Conscious of his position as the 'hero of the hour* 
he managed to get the public on his side by giving interviews to 
pressmen, film organisations and broadcasters. For people were 
much amused by his outwitting of the experts. His popularity 
was not in the least impaired by his arrest, on the 23rd January 

1953, for a short time. He was not generally regarded as a forger 
and swindler at all, but as an artist who had given the self-styled 
connoisseurs a lesson. 

An impartial view of the Liibeck scandal must take into 
account the nature of the tasks of restoration and the local 
situation. In earlier times restoration was understood to imply 
renewal and to a certain extent correction and alteration. It has 
only been in the last few decades that the principles of true 

109 



FORGERS, DEALERS, EXPERTS 

restoration have been laid down and elucidated in relation to 
certain well-known works. In 1926 these rules were formulated 
by Otto H. Forster in connection with restoration of paintings in 
Cologne Cathedral He writes: There must be no element of 
addition, completion or other conjectured reconstitution of any 
supposed original state. Such action could only be described as 
forgery. Extant work must be retained unless it can be proved 
beyond doubt to be a later, intrusive interpolation. All such 
disturbing passages must be removed, if this can be done without 
injury to the ancient, original substance of the work and without 
prejudice to the artistic effect as a whole. Defective places should 
as a rule be left as they are. Only if the whitewashed background 
happens to show through anywhere should it be toned in to 
wood-colour.' 

This modern conception of correct restoration has been 
criticised even in Liibeck, where it is emphasised that in principle 
all alteration and completion must be avoided and only preserva- 
tion of the original condition aimed at. If however completion 
appears necessary or easy to execute, as in the case, for instance, 
of simple repetitive pattern, such completion must be rendered 
recognisable in some way. It should be made obvious even to 
the casual spectator where the genuine work ends and its later 
continuation begins. In painting this object is achieved by a 
difference of tone and in sculpture by a change of material. By 
this procedure the total impression is not weakened, though the 
association of the styles of two separate epochs is clearly brought 
out and no false pretences of originality are asserted. It has 
however been affirmed in Liibeck ecclesiastical circles that St 
Mary's Church ought not to be reconstituted as a museum but as 
a revered place of worship. The authorities meant by this state- 
ment that they wished the figures, if possible, not to be presented as 
barely identifiable traces of a picture but as clearly visible religious 
symbols. This attitude is perfectly intelligible from a church- 
man's standpoint. But it cannot be taken as justifying in any way 
the removal of ancient traces of painting nor, above all, the 
modern concoction of 'medieval' figures. 

It was repeatedly stated in Liibeck by all concerned that 
restoration had been carried out in strict accordance with modern 
ideas, so that the ancient work had been preserved. But in fact 
Malskat had painted entirely new 'medieval remains' on the 

no 



THE LUBECK ART FORGERY SCANDAL 

almost completely bare brick walls of the choir under the high 
windows (see illustration). In the nave, where the fire had 
revealed most important traces of medieval painting, these relics 
had been scraped off with steel brushes and fresh designs applied 
to the cleared surface (see illustrations). 

Malskat explained, by way of excuse for this extraordinary 
proceeding, that the old paint had disintegrated to such an extent 
that it dropped off like dust at the slightest touch of a brush. 
The truth of this statement cannot of course now be tested. But 
the photographs taken of the ancient work before restoration 
suggest that even the technical peculiarities of the original had 
for the most part survived in an excellent state of preservation. 
If Fey had called public attention to the allegedly bad condition 
of the remains and recommended thek reinstatement with fresh 
paint, no one could have complained of forgery. But he made 
no such reference to the condition of the original and described 
his own work as restoration in the modern sense of the term. 
Consequently, that work was regarded as forgery. 

Why should Fey, who dkected the restoration, and Malskat, 
who carried it out, have decided to commit this fraud ? How was 
it that the experts did not perceive the deception ? It is necessary 
to have observed a restorer at work in order to realise how much 
time and effort are required for the smallest details of the remains 
of old pictures to be carefully tended, strengthened and preserved, 
so as to keep the total impression in being. It often takes a year 
to restore a single picture. 

It is very much easier, of course, to remove the old traces and 
paint the work anew. If reports from Liibeck are to be believed, 
certain individual figures were produced in only about twenty 
minutes each. Fresh work of this kind allows plenty of scope for 
invention and, in the case of the choir of St Mary's, a certain 
amount of celebrity could be obtained from the discovery of 
hitherto unknown works. Malskat was unquestionably also 
impelled by the ambition to 'rival the medieval masters*. In his 
long collaboration with Fey he had doubtless acquired a practised 
hand, so that he could turn out imitations of medieval paintings 
almost as a matter of routine. 

His disclosures in regard to the Liibeck 'restorations* led to 
the detection of other, earlier forgeries of the kind in northern 
Germany. It was proved, for example, that the 'fair-haired, pure- 

iii 



FORGERS, DEALERS, EXPERTS 

blooded Teuton heroes and heroines* represented in Schleswig 
Cathedral and so extolled by the leaders of the Third Reich as 
testifying to a 'great Teutonic civilisation' were arbitrary in- 
ventions of modern times and consequently forgeries. 

The 'old' art thus produced in Schleswig was partly taken, 
like that of the Liibeck chok paintings, from book illustrations 
and photographs. Malskat admitted, for instance, that a certain 
'medieval' Madonna had been derived from a photograph of the 
film actress Hansi Knoteck (see illustration). Though the first 
doubts as to the authenticity of this 'ancient' work had akeady 
arisen in consequence of the representation by a 'medieval' 
artist of a bird, the turkey, introduced into Europe from America, 
official art circles did not suspect any deception. A book by a 
well-known art historian and obtainable even to-day praises the 
Schleswig Cathedral frescoes as medieval work of wonderful 
beauty. 'The master responsible for them', it is stated, 'was a 
great anonymous artist comparable with the Bamberg and 
Naumberg sculptors. His work, like theirs, is characterised by 
a soaring, monumental aspiration and many features of much 
delicacy and charm . . .' 

There were several reasons why the relatively crude forgeries 
in the churches of northern Germany remained undetected. The 
troubles of the time favoured deception. Some kinds of counter- 
feit work were encouraged by the Government on propagandist 
grounds. The war and its aftermath placed exceptional strains 
upon various controlling authorities. Liibeck was one of the 
hardest hit of the German cities. The State, the Municipality and 
the Church each laid claim to exclusive competence in questions 
affecting works of art. This confused situation facilitated forgery. 
It should also be remembered that the paintings under the 
windows at St Mary's stood at a height of about seventy feet. 
They could therefore only be studied at a considerable distance. 
Details which must otherwise have led to discovery of the fraud 
were hardly visible when the works were observed obliquely at 
this height. Moreover, in view of the well-known and authenti- 
cated traces found in the nave, it did not occur to anyone that the 
choir paintings might have been forged. Finally, Dietrich Fey's 
reputation as a conscientious and honest protector of ancient art 
extended far beyond Schleswig. 

Many excellent photographs were taken both of the original 

112 



THE LUBECK ART FORGERY SCANDAL 

condition of the pictures and after their 'restoration*. It seems 
incredible to-day that comparison of these prints did not bring 
the difference to light. Even a layman can see, on making such 
a comparison, that nothing of the old work has survived. The 
painting is all fresh. 

The complex problem of the forgeries by Fey and Malskat was 
dealt with in much criticised legal proceedings which lasted for 
sixty-six days, from the loth August 1954 to the zjth January 
1955. Many people could not understand the verdict which 
sentenced Malskat to eighteen and Fey to twenty months' im- 
prisonment. Several commentators took the view that Malskat 
had not committed forgery in the ordinary sense and in any case 
had not acted from motives of material profit. They affirmed 
that Fey, on the contrary, was really the guilty party, since he had 
instigated the affair, kept it secret and lied about it. The trial 
certainly did not reveal the whole truth. Many of the remoter 
aspects of the case remained obscure. 

A great number of bewildering questions, to some of which it 
was hard to find the answer, repeatedly arose. But they should 
not be allowed to mask the main issue of the fraudulent proceed- 
ings in St Mary's. Ancient, genuine and valuable medieval 
paintings in the church were destroyed and replaced by crudely 
executed new work. There could be no excuse for such a crime. 
Even if Malskat's activities could be regarded, from various 
standpoints, as intelligible enough, he cannot be acquitted of 
guilt. Though he had lied to begin with he had in the end been 
obliged to confess to forgery. In the earlier interviews he gave 
he stated: *I didn't commit forgery, I only did what I was told/ 
But he declared later: T committed forgery against my conscience. 
And at last he wrote these significant words on a self-portrait: 
'Forger and artist.' 

The Liibeck case recalls views expressed by Goethe in 1799 
and published in his art review, Die Propylden. They are still 
valid to-day. He wrote: 'All works of art belong as such to the 
whole of civilised humanity. Possession of them carries with it 
the duty to preserve the works in question. Whoever neglects 
this duty or directly or indirectly contributes to the injury or 
destruction of any such works incurs the reproach of barbarism. 
His punishment will be the contempt of all educated persons, both 
of his own day and time to come/ 

i 113 



FORGERS, DEALERS, EXPERTS 

The Court summing-up emphasised that 'although the ascer- 
tainable material damage done may not have been excessive, it 
seriously endangered the restoration of St Mary's as a whole. 
The dishonest behaviour of those engaged upon it undermined 
confidence in the proper execution of all the reinstatement work/ 
It was natural that this argument should have prompted many 
demands for the removal of all the forgeries in the church. 
Hirschfeld wrote: "The forgeries should first be plastered over 
so as to obtain a clear surface free from all theoretical pre- 
conception and thus enable careful plans to be laid for an ideal 
solution of the problem by substituting true works of art for 
forgery, honesty for insincerity, with consequent obliteration of 
the stain upon morality. It should be considered the duty of any 
truly Christian community to carry out this task/ 

The choir forgeries had in fact meanwhile been rendered 
invisible by whitewash. But they were by no means forgotten for 
that reason. As President Eisenhower has said: It's no use 
pretending that you can get rid of what you believe to be wrong 
by destroying everything that reminds you of it.' The nave 
forgeries were deliberately left as they were. They had been 
derived from the original medieval frescoes and gave a faint idea 
of the way in which the space had been formerly filled. In 
addition, they constituted a sort of warning to all concerned with 
art, either as amateurs or professionals. 

The paintings counterfeited by Malskat, which had been 
confiscated by the Court, were handed back to their owners, at 
the latters' request, after the trial. But these works were officially 
earmarked as imitations in order to prevent their again coming 
on the market as 'originals' at a later date. 

Forty-six oils, water-colours and drawings executed by Malskat 
in the styles of old and modern masters and sold by him as 
originals were seized as forgeries by order of the Liibeck County 
Court. They were transferred by the Public Prosecutor's Office 
to the Schleswig-Holstein County Museum at Gottorf Castle in 
Schleswig, where it was intended to use them for purposes of 
study. They were stored for reference, together with other 
exhibits and documents relating to the offence of art forgery. 
The collection is not open to the general public. It is only 
available for inspection by specialists in the subject. 

Malskat was released from custody in August 1957, before he 

114 



THE LUBECK ART FORGERY SCANDAL 

had served his full sentence. He has since embarked on a new 
career as an artist. 'I have enough commissions to keep me busy 
day and night/ he told a Press representative. Many people had 
been delighted by the success of the 'medieval master* and 
ordered new works from him. He painted, for example, pictures 
*in the style of the fourteenth century' for the Tre Kronor 
restaurant at Stockholm (see illustration). He designed a turkey, 
like that of the forged medieval painting in Schleswig Cathedral, 
for the entrance doors of the Royal Tennis Courts in the Swedish 
capital. According to Press reports a German gallery is planning 
exhibitions abroad of Malskat's pictures in the 'Gothic, Roman- 
esque and Byzantine styles'. It is evident, therefore, that the 
artist means to earn his living through his talent for imitating 
medieval painting. He himself has said that he intends to develop 
the Gothic manner as his own 'impressionist-expressionist style*. 



115 



CHAPTER 17 



Modem Masterpieces by a Museum Attendant 



THE CASE of the Cologne museum attendant Jupp Jenniches was 
a post-war contribution by the Rhineland to the celebrated series 
of art forgery scandals. It was announced on the 6th October 
1949 that the porter of the Cologne Art Club's premises in the 
Hahnen Gate and an artist resident in the city had been arrested 
on suspicion of having purloined and disposed of valuable works 
of art after an air raid. The painter was also said to have forged 
certain pictures and sold them as originals. Imitations of the 
work of Emil Nolde and Paul Klee were believed to have been 
included. The public were asked, through the Press, to notify 
the police of any existent records of the offer or sale of modern 
paintings. 

The matter had been raised by Professor Dr Leopold Reide- 
meister, Director of the Cologne Museums. A water-colour 
alleged to be by Nolde had aroused his suspicions. The picture 
was sent by a Cologne lawyer interested in art to Nolde himself 
(1867-1956) for checking. *I didn't paint it!' he replied. There- 
upon other pictures which had also been offered for sale by the 
artist Schuppner were confiscated and tested for authenticity. 
They were found to have been forged and the 'dealer' was 
arrested. This step appeared to be justified, as Schuppner had 
been sentenced in 1942 to three and a half years' imprisonment 
for 'dealing in forged works of art' and similar offences and 
forbidden to exercise the trade in future. So he was already 
incriminated. No proof of the identity of the forger had been 
forthcoming at the trial But it was assumed at the time that 
Schuppner had been aware, when he sold the pictures, that they 
had been forged and signed with false names. 

The later proceedings very soon revealed who the counter- 

116 



MODERN MASTERPIECES BY A MUSEUM ATTENDANT 

feiter was. The guilty party was not Schuppner but, to every- 
one's astonishment, a certain Jupp Jenniches, who had been for 
twenty-eight years in the service of the Cologne Art Club. He 
was known as the Club 'man of all work'. His multifarious 
duties included packing and nailing down boxes, framing, 
cleaning and restoring pictures. It was stated that after his 
release from a prisoners of war camp he had found some damaged 
paintings in the ruins of the celkr of the former premises of the 
club in the Friesenplatz. It occurred to him that they might be 
'made like new'. The painter and collector Schuppner took an 
interest in the 'finished articles'. The first transactions 'paid well' 
and the simple-minded museum employee was accordingly 
encouraged, perhaps almost unconsciously, to embark upon 
further deceptions, amounting to positive art forgery. Five 
counterfeit c Noldes' and five counterfeit 'Klees* were found at 
Schuppner's residence. Jenniches readily confessed to other 
forgeries, which he had committed, he said, to pay for the re- 
building of his private accommodation, which cost more than he 
could afford on his modest salary. 

The case began to be heard on the i8th September 1950 in the 
First Criminal Court in the Appellhofplatz at Cologne. Nineteen 
forged paintings hung behind the Bench. They included works 
in the styles of E. I. Kirchner, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, and Oskar 
Campendonck as well as a counterfeit 'Max Pechstein' triptych 
of the South Seas. Schuppner was charged with receiving stolen 
goods, resuming a previous career of crime, falsification of 
documents and the practice of a trade forbidden to him by a 
Court order. Theft and falsification of documents were the 
charges against Jenniches. 

The latter described in perfectly credible and convincing 
fashion how, on his return to Cologne in 1945, he had found 
damaged pictures floating in muddy water in the cellars of the 
gallery, which had been bombed out two years before. It was 
there that he had discovered the Pechstein triptych, which 
looked as though it had come from a dungheap*. He took seven 
of the pictures home and 'cleaned them up'. He knew they 
belonged to a lady who had left Cologne for London in 1936. 
Probably he never dreamed of the possibility of the owner 
claiming her property. 

As he was aware that Schuppner was interested in good work 

"7 



FORGERS, DEALERS, EXPERTS 

by modern masters he showed him the cleaned painting by Pech- 
stein, telling the dealer that he had been given the picture before 
the war for certain services he had rendered to a Jew who had 
since emigrated. Schuppner seemed very pleased with the 
triptych and paid Jenniches 8500 RM. for it. The latter then 
proceeded to supply further items, painted by himself in the 
styles of modern artists. Big exhibitions of works by Klee and 
Nolde were held in Cologne in 1947. Jenniches had plenty of 
opportunity to study the paintings at his leisure, take tracings 
of them and copy them. In his imitation of a female portrait in 
profile by Nolde he made the features face the opposite way, so 
that the copy could not be immediately detected. He boldly 
forged the signatures of the artists concerned on his versions. 
As he knew that reports by qualified experts determined the value 
of a picture, he prepared such reports c just like the original' by 
the use of sealing-wax stamped with the design of a decoration 
he had found by chance. It was learned that Jenniches had 
received from Schuppner for the crudest productions of this kind 
a total sum of about 28,000 RM. 

Schuppner at first simply added these forgeries to his own 
collection. It was not until later that he handed them to various 
other dealers for sale. He called witnesses to testify that he had 
not disobeyed the previous Court order and had not himself 
engaged in the trade. As to the question of forgery, he swore 
that he believed what Jenniches told him and never dreamed of 
the possibility of fraud. He was able to prove that museum 
directors and connoisseurs repeatedly visited his collection and 
never expressed doubts as to the authenticity of any item. 

The Attorney General demanded a sentence of eighteen months* 
imprisonment for Schuppner. In so doing he stressed the point 
that a professional painter must be supposed to have some 
technical understanding of his art. He characterised Schuppner's 
defence, to the effect that he had been the victim of a plot, as 
merely the ingenious expedient of a man who was no stranger to 
courts of law. But although there were the gravest reasons for 
suspecting the defendant of knowingly receiving stolen goods, 
the Attorney General could not prove that he had done so. The 
prosecution considered however that a degree of association with 
art dealers had been proved which went far beyond that of an 
ordinary private collector and should be regarded as engagement 

118 



MODERN MASTERPIECES BY A MUSEUM ATTENDANT 

in the trade which the defendant had been forbidden by law to 
exercise. 

The prosecution called for a sentence of fifteen months for 
Jupp - officially 'Josef ' - Jenniches. Six months were claimed as 
a punishment for persistent theft and nine for persistent fraud 
combined with falsification of documents. It was held to be 
some excuse for the forger that the cellars from which he had 
taken the pictures were also being plundered by other people 
and that a large proportion of the stolen works was in practically 
worthless condition. The Court maintained, however, that they 
could not be described as entirely valueless. That opinion was 
confirmed by the fact that Jenniches had taken them home, 
restored them and subsequently sold them to Schuppner for 
considerable sums. Moreover, the copies made and signed with 
the names of Klee and Nolde constituted persistent and successful 
fraud and falsification. The prosecution took the view that 
Jenniches must have been well aware of the illegality of his 
actions. 

The judgment pronounced in this case greatly surprised even 
those personally concerned. On the 19$! September 1950 
Robert Schuppner was found not guilty for want of adequate 
proof, of persistent fraud and falsification. His trial for engage- 
ment in forbidden trade was suspended in conformity with 
certain amnesty regulations. Jupp Jenniches was sentenced to a 
year's imprisonment for theft and persistent fraud in combination 
with persistent falsification. But the sentence was extended to 
three years, so that he could take advantage of the amnesty law. 
The penalty would not be imposed if Jenniches remained of good 
behaviour during the next three years. Grounds for judgment 
were stated to have been influenced by the assumptions that no 
further frauds were contemplated by the museum employee and 
that the painter had acted in good faith. It was also stressed that 
Jenniches was entitled to special consideration in view of his 
frank confession, his distressing economic condition and as a 
Victim of the turbulence of the times'. As he had committed no 
further frauds after 1947 it might reasonably be supposed that 
he would get into no further trouble. 

It appeared very puzzling, especially in artistic circles, that an 
ordinary museum attendant, quite untrained and unassisted, 
should have been able to produce forgeries of this kind, which 

119 



FORGERS, DEALERS, EXPERTS 

deceived experts for so long a period. People who knew Jenniches 
could not understand how so simple-minded a man could ever 
have hit upon the idea of doing anything of the sort. His own 
account of the matter in Court was given with a candour so 
relentless as to be sometimes detrimental to his own interests and 
with perfect credibility. He said that at the exhibition entitled 
'From Nolde to Klee' he had overheard impassioned arguments 
on the merits and demerits of modern art. Many visitors ridiculed 
the exhibits and declared that any child of average intelligence 
could have executed than. Such statements impressed Jenniches. 
During his long hours of duty he kept wondering whether the 
pictures could really be taken seriously as works of art. He 
noticed one which showed only 'a few little wheels and beaks* 
and yet was entitled 'Continuous Line*. 

He went on in his unquestionably authentic Cologne dialect : 
' "Sure/' I says, "I can do that what that there Klee do. I've 
tried it, I have." And didn't I gawp when I saw the fust one I 
done!' He strenuously denied that any of his forgeries were 
copies, observing, in somewhat 'streaky' German: 

*Nah, nah, nah! Them was moy idea, moy own initiative, that 
was. Allus up ter date in art, that's me!' 

All he intended to do was to paint in 'Klee's or Nolde's style'. 
Actually, his productions were more or less free copies. For 
example, he took a tracing of a female profile by Nolde and 
transferred it to face the other way, so as to make it a 'new' 
water-colour. In the transcription he tried to improve on his 
model by drawing tidier lines and imposing flatter washes. He 
thus turned a living, visionary work of art into a dead poster 
advertisement (see illustration). 

Jenniches may well have produced these first imitations out 
of sheer love of drawing and the desire to equal celebrated 
masters. If he had intended to deceive people, he would certainly 
have tried to come closer to his originals. He claimed that it was 
not until Schuppner had repeatedly enquired after modern 
pictures - and perhaps offered good prices for them - that he 
remembered his own attempts at rivalling them. 'After all, I had 
all that stuff at home, I needed a lot of money, and so I just 
stuck names on them, touched them up a bit and sold them to 
Schuppner/ 

Judgment in this case put an end to the scandal, one character- 

120 




37 Lothar Malskat painted decorations for the 
Tre Kronor' Inn, Stockholm. He calls his style, 
which he used as a 'restorer' of North German 
Gothic paintings, 'impressionist -expressionist', 



38 'Virgin and Child.' Forgery by Malskat 
in the manner of the medieval master 
of Schleswig Cathedral; he painted this 
head from a photograph of a film actress. 





39 Forgery of a medieval fresco by 
Lothar Malskat in Schleswig Cathedral , 
using a photograph of his sister 
Frieda. Nobody questioned her 
rather modern hat. 



40 Choir of the Church of St Mary, 
Liibeck, with forgeries by Lothar 
Malskat below the clerestory win- 
dows. He used medieval book 
illustrations as models. 




41 

'Madonna.' Forgery by Lothar Malskat in the Church of St Mary, 
Liibeck. It is a free copy of an old painting and bears no relation to the 
original paintings in the Lubeck church. 



42 Nave of the Church of St Mary, Liibeck, after 'restoration' in 
1952. Malskat admitted that he had replaced the remaining 
fragments of genuine medieval painting with forgeries, 





43 Figures of saints in the nave of the Church of 
St Mary, Lubeck. Forgeries by Lothar Malskat. 
Nobody suspected forgery because the remains 
of genuine painting had been discovered here. 




44 'Indian' painting by Lothar Malskat in the Delhi Palace, Hamburg. 
Malskat relied on genuine miniatures for models and made no 
original contribution of his own. The derivations of his paintings 
here were known and these are not, therefore, properly speak- 
ing, forgeries. 



MODERN MASTERPIECES BY A MUSEUM ATTENDANT 

istic of the war years and the confused period that followed. 
Those circumstances were rightly taken into consideration by 
the Bench. The general public also regarded the affair as a 
natural consequence of the chaotic situation that prevailed in the 
heavily damaged capital of the Rhineland. It was stated at the 
trial that Schuppner had bartered a picture by Max Ernst for a 
sack of 'runner-beans' and one by George Grosz for half a pound 
of butter. Shortage of the necessities of life was accompanied by 
deplorable and abnormal conditions in the art world. Such was 
the environment which led a man who had been employed for 
nearly thirty years at an establishment concerned with art to 
appropriate articles belonging to someone else from a heap of 
ruins, to forge pictures and offer them for sale. 

Jenniches was not an art forger in the ordinary sense of the 
phrase. His frauds were certainly committed in the hope of gain, 
but only because he was in need of money and unaware of the 
serious consequences that might ensue. The fact that although 
the 'business' paid so well at first he did not continue it clearly 
differentiates him from other counterfeiters of art. He stopped, 
for instance, at the point where Han van Meegeren began. 

Naturally enough, the respect accorded to art in general and 
to modern painters in particular suffered from the revelations 
made in this case. A lot of people were amused at the resource- 
fulness of a museum attendant who took the trouble to rummage 
among forgotten pictures going to rack and ruin in a bombed out 
cellar. The public were also delighted to find that so simple a 
fellow, without the slightest training, could paint like such 
modern masters as Klee and Nolde and take in all the "professors' 
with his efforts. A newspaper seller with a pitch in the Friesen- 
platz at Cologne summed up the general reaction. 'All Jupp did 
was to save what was due for the dustbin. In 1945 not one of 
those fine gentlemen who ran him in for theft would have 
bothered their heads about that old rubbish. If people are so 
foolish as to buy the stuff, Jupp might just as well earn the cash 
for it as any professor!' 



121 



CHAPTER 18 



Art Forgets at Naples 



FEW PEOPLE can be unaware that Naples is a 'centre* for art 
forgery. The bogus productions of the city are as well known, 
throughout the world, as its genuine works of art. 

The Roman art dealer Augusto Jandolo, in a remarkable 
passage of his Confessions, stresses the importance of Naples as a 
'town of art forgeries'. It appears that in earlier times each of the 
Italian provinces specialised in a certain branch of spurious art. 
Umbria faked works in bone, ivory and majolica. Tuscany went 
in for 'Renaissance furniture* and pictures with gold backgrounds, 
Latium for coins and marble sculpture, Emilia for Cinquecento 
bronzes and Venice for gkss. But Naples covered the whole field. 
Nothing was too difficult for the Neapolitans. 

The most extraordinary affairs occur and the most improbable 
notions flourish in that city. Even the most humble, ignorant 
and inexperienced of Neapolitan antiquaries is always jovial and 
versatile. It is impossible to quarrel with him. Many visitors to 
the town must have been swindled in much the same way as 
Jandolo himself, who found his own gullibility in the matter as 
amusing as the fraud practised on him. 

'Naples', he writes, 'is a regular gold-mine for unscrupulous 
dealers. Twenty years ago I simply said, "What a lovely little 
statue that is on the high altar!" Back came the answer in a flash. 
"Would you like to have it, Sir? Going cheap!" Thereupon I 
got, not the real thing, but a copy. When I complained, I was 
told: "But who's any the worse for it? Certainly not the much 
respected saint himself, for the lucky fellow's a sacred being and 
lives in heaven. As for his image, why should a true believer 
care whether it's ancient or modern? It's only the museum 
officials who bother about such a thing. The rest of us are as 

122 



ART FORGERS AT NAPLES 

dumb as fish on the subject, including the parson who sold the 
figure and doesn't breathe a word about his profit. And in a, 
few hundred years, Sir, you can be quite sure that another 
antiquary will come and buy the statuette that will then be on 
view in the same place. The world goes on turning like a wheel. 
Things keep changing. Why shouldn't this little figure change 
too?"' 

The adroit and convincing manner in which these peculiar 
views are developed disarms every counter-argument. The 
spurious suddenly appears in quite a new light. It seems perfectly 
justifiable to equate it with genuine ancient art. Why not 
imitate and copy? What's fraudulent about it? Where's the 
harm to anyone? And if we don't snap up such bargains', 
someone else will. 

The Neapolitan art forgers have an inexhaustible source of 
supply in the sites, still under excavation, of Pompeii and Her- 
culaneum. Most visitors to Naples go there in search of souvenirs 
of the unique experience undergone nearly two thousand years 
ago by the inhabitants of those ancient cities, when they were 
overwhelmed by eruptions from Mount Vesuvius. The demand 
for such mementoes led at an early date to their fabrication and 
falsification. The most eminent connoisseurs and the most 
important collections have been deceived by these works. An 
'ancient Pompeian' marble fountain, for instance, in the National 
Museum at Naples was not revealed as a forgery until it was 
discovered by chance that one of the 'antique' reliefs had been 
copied from a drawing by Albrecht Dxirer. 

In 1954 the victimisation of American museums by art forgery 
produced in Naples caused a sensation. A studio was found in 
the city where extraordinarily close imitations of antique gold 
ornaments and silver utensils were manufactured. A Neapolitan 
dealer and two goldsmiths whom he employed were arrested. 
They had defrauded a number of galleries and private collectors 
by selling them copies of old silver implements for high prices, 
with the assurance that these precious objects had been excavated 
at the site of a villa near Castellamare, known as Stabiae in 
antiquity, the spot having been buried under volcanic lava in 
A.D. 79. The purchasers were also told that the transaction must 
not be reported in official quarters as it was against the law. 

The Italian initiator of the fraud got into touch with the 

123 



FORGERS, DEALERS, EXPERTS 

director of a well-known American gallery through an American 
military officer who had been concerned with the protection of 
works of art in Italy during the invasion of the country by the 
Allies. The director was offered the alleged 'find of silver at 
Stabiae* as items of exceptional interest. They comprised six 
large wine-coolers of the amphora type, two ceremonial dishes, 
twenty plates, a tripod, two candelabra fitted with oil-lamps and 
eight vases provided with handles and decorated with botanical 
designs. After long negotiation the price was agreed at 300,000 
dollars. The dealer stipulated that the articles should not be 
publicly exhibited until 1955. 

He played the same trick, this time with copies of antique gold 
ornaments, on a number of private collectors. The fraud was 
discovered by a British dealer acting as technical adviser to an 
American gallery, who was informed of these transactions. 
Similar decorations had been used in genuine old works of art. 
The designs had been taken from those of silver articles found 
in 1919 at Trapain Low, those of the Hildesheim silver hoard and 
those of finds on the Esquiline and at Carthage. The craftsman 
responsible, who came to be known as the T)ossena of gold- 
smiths' work', was reported to have produced 120 such forgeries. 



124 



CHAPTER 19 



The Vienna Madonna scandal 



THIS AFFAIR attracted attention, in 1959, far beyond the confines 
of artistic society. Students of the history of art forgery were 
struck by the similarity of the story to those of earlier scandals 
of the kind in France, Italy, Germany and the Netherlands. In 
this case Austria was the country concerned. The matter was 
cleared up and to all appearance satisfactorily dealt with sooner 
than had been at first expected. But, as in previous instances, 
consequences of incalculable magnitude ensued. As before, 
confidence in the sincerity and merit of works of art was under- 
mined and the fallibility of human judgment in this field exposed. 
These effects were evident in newspaper headlines all over the 
world, announcing that 'all is not old that is Gothic'. 

In November 1958 the catalogue of the Christmas auction held 
by the Vienna city authorities in the Dorotheum advertised the 
principal item as a 'Gothic statue of the Madonna in a pronounced 
S-shaped posture, with crown and wimple* (see illustration). It 
was of wood, 3 8 cm high, and described as the 'work of a Bur- 
gundian sculptor of about 1380, artistically of the greatest value. 
It constituted the central figure in an altar-shrine from which 
another statue was auctioned at the 539th sale, catalogued as No. 
351. An outstanding collectors' piece of extreme rarity.' The 
carving was valued at 100,000 schillings, a note being added to 
the effect that the price paid for the related figure sold at the 
former auction was 60,000 schillings. Three connoisseurs had 
been concerned with the study and assessment of the Madonna 
statuette, under the direction of Dr Herbst of Vienna, an expert 
duly sworn in for the purpose. His reputation for learning and 
critical ability in matters of art stood high. 

This information from Vienna was noted in art periodicals 

125 



FORGERS, DEALERS, EXPERTS 

throughout the world, with reproduction of the text and photo- 
graphs. Several Press articles followed. The Munich Weltkunst y 
for example, discussed the forthcoming auction and its chief 
item, the Burgundian wood-carving. This notice, accompanied 
by an illustration of the 'Gothic Madonna', was seen towards 
the end of November by a traveller in Germany, one Beppi 
Rifesser, a wood-carver from St Ulrich in the Groden valley of 
the southern Tyrol (to Italians Ortisei in the Val Gardena). 
Rifesser could hardly believe his eyes. For in the 'fourteenth- 
century Gothic work' illustrated he recognised one of his own 
productions. 

In order to make sure he paid a visit to Vienna. He left the 
Dorotheum with his head in a whirl of amazement and pride at 
finding a work he had himself created figuring as the chief item 
at this important auction. The Madonna was one of five he had 
freely copied from old models five years before. The statues had 
not been taken individually from particular precedents. They 
had simply been executed in the style suggested to the sculptor 
by Gothic representations and given the appropriate appearance 
of age by chemical means. But Rifesser was no forger or swindler. 
He had sold all the carvings as his own work in 195 7 to the dealer 
Josef Auer of Bischofshofen for normal prices, about 350 to 400 
marks apiece. 

The sculptor would have been glad to explain matters while 
he was in Vienna and tell the authorities at the Dorotheum that 
he was himself responsible for the 'Gothic Madonna'. But, 
intelligibly enough, he was torn between pride at the recognition 
accorded to his work and fear of possible legal proceedings. In 
the end he held his tongue. *I was afraid they might lock me up 
as a lunatic*, he told a newspaper man at a later date. 

But Rifesser could not quiet his conscience. He consulted Dr 
Bernhard Hauser, a Munich lawyer, and told him the story. 
Hauser immediately communicated the facts to the Dorotheum 
authorities. Meanwhile, in Vienna itself certain dealers had been 
expressing doubts as to the authenticity of the Madonna in 
question. As the auctioneers refused to listen to them and con- 
tinued to describe the carving as 'undoubtedly genuine' one of 
the dealers reported the situation to the police. 

It might have been expected that in view of Rifesser's state- 
ment the statue would have been instantly withdrawn from the 

126 



THE VIENNA MADONNA SCANDAL 

items to be auctioned and further investigations undertaken. 
But, as previous cases of the kind have shown, disputes about 
works of art are not so rapidly and easily settled. In Vienna, too, 
objections were raised to all attempts to justify doubts of the 
authenticity of the 'medieval' figure. The police, however, took 
a different view of the case. They saw no reason for querying 
Rifesser's responsibility for the work, especially as there was no 
difficulty in proving that Auer had resold it. It was ascertained 
that he had told prospective buyers in Vienna that the statue 
came from an 'old altar-shrine*. He was consequently, and 
rightly, suspected of being the guilty party. On the 6th December 
he was arrested. The figure had to be withdrawn from the sale- 
room twenty-four hours before the auction began. This step 
gave rise to a public scandal. 

Josef Auer, at the time of his arrest, was already involved in 
another investigation, dealing with his alleged theft of works of 
art. After being taken to Vienna to face the second charge he 
acknowledged the 'deception* he had practised in the case of 
Rifesser's Madonna. He had sold the work in Vienna as an 
antiquity, he said, 'in order to show up the experts*. 'I staged 
that swindle*, he affirmed, 'with Rifesser's statue of the Virgin, 
simply to spite the Dorotheum.' The statement immediately 
recalls similar declarations by Han van Meegeren. He, too, 
asserted that he had prepared and sold his forgeries 'to revenge 
myself on the specialists*. 

Through Auer's arrest the true facts about another statuette 
by Rifesser came to light. This work had been sold at a Doro- 
theum auction the year before. The Christmas catalogue of 1958 
had referred to its style and origin as similar to those of the figure 
then advertised. It was discovered that the previous item, too, 
had been bought by Auer from Rifesser. It had been sold for 
5000 schillings to one Hans Reisinger, of Mondsee in Austria, 
a goldsmith and art dealer. Auer had not mentioned that it was 
a modern work. It was for the other dealer, he considered, to 
draw his own conclusions about its date. There was no question, 
therefore, of a deliberate swindle in this case. Reisinger sold the 
carving to a Vienna dealer for 7500 schillings. The new owner 
had it valued by the Dorotheum authorities. They pronounced 
it to be unquestionably a creation of the Middle Ages and thereby 
rendered it a 'forgery without a forger*, so to speak, in the same 

127 



FORGERS, DEALERS, EXPERTS 

category as the productions of the sculptor Bastianini already 
referred to in these pages. This image by Rifesser was sold as a 
'Burgundian carving' at the Viennese spring auction of 1958. 
Bidding started at 18,000 schillings and rose to 60,000, at which 
price it was acquired by a local collector. 

Auer, hearing of this large sum, hoped to take advantage of a 
rising market. He offered the Dorotheum a Madonna by Rifesser. 
In so doing he expressly stated that the statue auctioned in the 
spring had originally been his property and that it was included, 
together with a third carving, in the main group of a medieval 
altar-shrine. He told the police after his arrest that this idea 
of making a fortune out of his purchases of figures of this kind 
was an afterthought. He said that he had bought two of them in 
Italy at high prices, being perfectly convinced that they were 
genuine antiques. But the Dorotheum authorities, on examining 
these works, had declared them to be forgeries, thus involving 
him in heavy financial loss. In order to recoup himself he had 
conceived the plan, in his disappointment at the decision of the 
Viennese experts, to take vengeance on 'that Vienna lot'. He 
took his second carving by Rifesser to the Dorotheum and 
contrived, by misrepresenting the facts, to persuade the authori- 
ties there that it was a medieval work. He swore that he had no 
intention of defrauding them, though he had unmistakably done 
so by his reference to an antique altar. The Vienna police followed 
up the history of the other figures acquired by Auer from Rifesser. 
These represented a St Christopher, another saint, a Madonna 
and Child and an angel's head. But in these cases no proof could 
be obtained of fraud, whether attempted or executed. 

The Viennese experts were by no means satisfied, in spite of 
Auer's admissions and their confirmation by Rifesser, that the 
works concerned were really modern. It appears that they did 
not even take the trouble to examine them in the light of Rifesser's 
statements. New disclosures enabled a clear answer to be given 
to the question of authenticity. Rifesser, for example, said he 
had not used cedarwood for his carving, as the Vienna art 
historians maintained, but common chestnut. Again, Auer had 
referred to 'an old altar*. Nothing could have been more natural 
than to go and look for it. Why such enquiries were not made at 
the time the carving was accepted remains incomprehensible. 
For whenever a new work of art crops up it is surely essential to 

128 



THE VIENNA MADONNA SCANDAL 

raise the question of its origin and make the most rigorous 
investigations of it. 

The obstinacy of the Dorotheum in the face of Auer's con- 
fessions, in line with and substantiated by Rifesser's own testi- 
mony, is exemplified by Dr Herbst's remark: 'I shall only be 
convinced if Herr Rifesser does a job like that under supervision !' 
He may have been thinking of the 'evidence' so often produced 
in these conditions by the defendants in trials for art forgery. 
But he probably forgot what had happened as a result of these 
separate experiments in the cases of Israel Ruchomovsky, Alceo 
Dossena and Han van Meegeren. On each occasion without 
exception forgery was proved and the specialists shown to have 
been mistaken. Dr Herbst could not, of course, entirely exclude 
the possibility, after all that had occurred in Vienna, that the 
figures were in fact modern. He declared, with suitable dignity, 
that if such should prove to be the case the Dorotheum would 
reimburse all the losses incurred and return the amount paid for 
the auctioned statue. 

Rifesser's lawyer told the Vienna Presse that his client had 
carved six similar Madonnas, all very much alike. One of them 
was the figure purchased by Auer. A second had been sold to a 
Zurich buyer and a third to one in Hamburg. In addition to the 
image of a saint disposed of at the Viennese spring auction Auer 
possessed an almost exactly similar work. In the lawyer's opinion 
sufficient material existed, therefore, for purposes of both com- 
parison and proof, to enable the matters in dispute to be cleared 
up and the wood-carver from Groden to be recognised as the 
true creator of the statues. 

As in former cases of the kind the question was then raised 
whether a modern artist could possibly be in a position to work 
so faultlessly and to such deceptive effect 'in the antique manner' 
unless he made direct copies. But in this case the ancient tradition 
of sculpture which flourishes to this day in the Groden valley and 
especially in the small market-town of St Ukich, near Brixen and 
Bozen, must be remembered. Beppi Rifesser was born on the 2 3rd 
August 1921. He is a member of one of the oldest families in the 
valley. Even his great-grandfather had been a distinguished 
wood-carver. Beppi told a reporter: 'If ever I marry and have a 
son, he'll be called Josef and become a wood-carver.' The 
family lived high above the town on the so-called Stufan. The 

K 129 



FORGERS, DEALERS, EXPERTS 

sculptor was accordingly known in the locality as 'Beppi da 
Stufan'. He had begun by assisting in his father's extensive 
practice and been further trained in the studio of Jakob Crepaz. 
For eight years he attended the Groden Polytechnic and evening 
classes, acquiring a familiarity with various woods such as is 
seldom attained by a modern artist. At the same time he travelled 
a great deal, developing his feeling for style to such a degree that 
he actually became capable of executing works in the fashions of 
bygone days without direct copying (see illustration). 

The Viennese experts were not aware of these details. They 
insisted that it was impossible and a Table' that such a sculpture 
as the Dorotheurn wood-carving could have been conjured up, 
with every conceivable sign of age, a short time ago, out of new 
wood. Rifesser accordingly announced that he was ready to 
undergo a test. He declared that in seven hours, in the presence 
of specialists, he would carve a fresh 'early Gothic' figure. 'If I 
am invited by the Dorotheum to produce a specimen by way of 
evidence, I'll go to Vienna and carve the work under the eyes of 
their authorities/ he said. 'Of course, I must be allowed to 
bring my own tools and chemicals and have a suitable work- 
table placed at my disposal/ He added that at any trial which 
might take place he could produce evidence that he had made 
the Madonna. For example, he affirmed that he knew the exact 
position of two holes in the back of that particular statue. 

Meanwhile, in the Austrian capital, protests had been multi- 
plying against the attitude of the Dorotheum in refusing to 
acknowledge its error and recognise the modernity of the work. 
Demands were made in Parliament for immediate and energetic 
action to be taken by the Minister of the Interior to settle the 
dispute. These requests were based upon criticism which accused 
the Dorotheum of employing incompetent persons, not duly 
sworn in, as experts. The institution was also charged with 
failing to put the public in full possession of the facts. 

Pressure from all sides eventually led to an 'official' invitation 
to Rifesser to visit the workshop of the Technological Institute 
for Materials of the Academy of Fine Art in Vienna and there 'to 
execute from his own resources, under the supervision of com- 
petent judges, a second Gothic Madonna similar to that which 
had been withdrawn from auction shortly before the opening 
day*. The Dorotheum promised to meet all Rifesser's travelling 

130 



THE VIENNA MADONNA SCANDAL 

and subsistence expenses and to pay him an 'honorarium* for his 
work. The test was to start on the 8th January 1959. But this 
date had to be postponed, as Rifesser had injured his hip in a 
road accident while driving to Waldbruck on the 3rd January 
and was not in a fit state to travel. 

Preparations were made for his arrival in February. He wished 
to break the journey at Munich, whence Dr Hauser would 
accompany him. For the sculptor obviously felt uneasy at the 
raising of the question of forgery and feared that legal proceedings 
might follow. e l shall do nothing without my lawyer*, he de- 
clared. 'Hauser is in any case one of my friends. I've made a 
couple of figures for him, artificially treated so as to look old. 3 

Meanwhile, however, further investigations had been tinder- 
taken in Vienna. The Technological Institute for Materials, 
where Rifesser was to give proof of the modernity of his works, 
had made a thorough examination of the carving in dispute. 
The results unmistakably confirmed the sculptor's statements. 
The figure was found to be made of chestnut- wood, not of cedar, 
as had originally been maintained. These discoveries rendered 
the contemplated test in Vienna superfluous. On the i3th 
February 1959 the 'sensational' news was proclaimed in the city 
that the Dorotheum had admitted its mistake and would not 
require any further proofs from Rifesser. 

He was thus officially acknowledged as the creator of the 
Madonna concerned. Dr Herbst, the leading specialist, confessed 
in an interview with the Press that he had erred in his judgment 
of the carving and had therefore not considered a test of the 
sculptor's powers necessary. He added that the Dorotheum 
would reimburse Rifesser for all his expenses in the matter. That 
institution, moreover, would continue to uphold its high reputa- 
tion by buying back, at the full price of 60,000 schillings paid for 
it, the Madonna by Rifesser which it had sold as Gothic. 

On the 5th August 1959 Josef F. Auer, dealer in antiquities, 
was sentenced by the Vienna Municipal Court to a year's im- 
prisonment for fraud. The Bench confirmed the defendant's 
assertion that the fraud had been facilitated by the experts 
concerned and that identification of the wood alone would have 
been bound to reveal the 'forgery'. But Auer, nevertheless, was 
considered to have been at fault in not drawing public attention 
to the Dorotheum's error long before the scandal came to light. 

131 



FORGERS, DEALERS, EXPERTS 

By failing to do so he had made a deliberate fraud of what he 
alleged to have been a mere attempt to expose the specialists* 
incompetence. At first sight the sentence appears heavy in 
comparison with those passed at other similar trials. But it was 
probably dictated by the fact that Auer had been found guilty 
by the Courts on no less than twenty-five previous occasions. 

But these proceedings did not put an end to the scandal of the 
Vienna Madonna. The case had been a peculiarly convincing 
demonstration that, however easy the forgery and distribution 
of works of sculpture may be rendered owing to the enthusiasm 
they arouse when found and the ardour of the quest for them, 
such productions are always exposed in the end. 



132 



CHAPTER 20 



Antique Furniture is not always old 



As SOON AS PEOPLE began to collect old furniture and place a 
high value on it, artists, craftsmen and swindlers took steps to 
provide imitations and new versions of it. As in other fields, 
fashions varied between different countries. In the 1870*8, for 
instance, the Rhineland "pillar-cupboards* were very popular in 
western Germany. But if all those supplied had been genuine 
originals, an expert commented, one would have to assume that 
in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries 'every Rhineland citizen 
and farmer not only had a fowl in the pot for Sundays but also 
a pillar-cupboard in the kitchen*. 

Imitations were usually confined to half or a section of an 
article of furniture. Separate components were taken from the 
remains of old pieces and put together afresh. A certain clever 
joiner, for example, is said to have constructed a whole series of 
'genuine old* cupboards from sections of wainscoting. In the 
same way a new 'old* cupboard would be composed of a number 
of serviceable sections from several damaged ones. Old posts, 
panels and locks of the most varied origins were combined in a 
new unit. Every part of it might be old and genuine. But the 
product as a whole would be a modern forgery. 

A favourite practice is the alteration of dates. Genuine pieces 
may be made to seem 'older', and thus become forgeries, by some 
quite trifling and inconspicuous manipulation. A 9 or a 6, for 
instance, may be changed to a nought, so that the date 1595, 
perhaps, appears as 1505, nearly a century earlier. Only an art 
historian who is also an expert on furniture could detect, from 
considerations of style, such cunning falsification of dating and 
so expose the forgery. It is therefore not surprising that even 
important museums contain furniture handled in this way. The 

133 



FORGERS, DEALERS, EXPERTS 

so called Tour Countries Chest' which stood for a long time 
under Raphael's cartoons for tapestry in the main hall of the 
South Kensington Museum carried the false date of 1526, which 
made it appear a work of the Renaissance. 

Worm-holes are supposed by most people to be a convincing 
proof of genuine antiquity in furniture. But worm-eaten wood 
is often used by forgers for the construction of new pieces, while 
new wood can also be treated so as to look old. The circular 
holes made by the insects are reproduced by the more pain- 
staking type of forger with the aid of precision gimlets. But the 
really subtle swindler lets the worms themselves do the work. 
He breeds them for the purpose. The Roman antiquary Augusto 
Jandolo refers to a method formerly much in vogue for the 
fabrication of worm-holes. One day a certain agent took him to 
see another dealer whose wife was always deceiving and annoying 
the poor fellow, 'As we were going up the stairs, two shots sud- 
denly rang out, followed by the terrified screams of children and 
two further shots. "That's done it," I thought. "He's shot her 
down at last." The agent tore up the stairs ahead of me and 
nearly pulled the door-bell out. We heard someone coming. 
Then the dealer opened the door. He was still holding a smoking 
shot-gun. I stared at him, transfixed with horror. "Ah, good 
morning, my dear Jandolo," he exclaimed, with a smile. "Do 
come in. I've just been plugging some worm-holes in a side- 
board!" ' But this shot-gun method has been practically given up 
in modern times. For connoisseurs now use needles to determine 
whether the holes have been made by the undeviating line of per- 
foration by a lead shot or the winding course bored by the insect. 

The expert relies on touch to guide his judgment. The surface 
of a genuine old piece of furniture has acquired over the years 
an even patina of dust and wax which gives it a velvety smooth- 
ness. But new wood, however industriously varnished and 
polished, feels comparatively rough. Antique furniture also has 
a slightly rippled surface, due to the shrinking of connecting 
tissue between the rings of harder ligneous fibre. Forgers try 
to level out the cruder inequalities of new wood by the application 
of various pastes. But this expedient hardly ever succeeds in 
producing the genuine old patina. 

The layer of dirt deposited by centuries has an entirely different 
colour from that of the mixture of dust and glue put on by hand. 

134 



ANTIQUE FURNITURE IS NOT ALWAYS OLD 

Varnishes are easier to imitate. The shrewd forgers of Naples 
have attained a special excellence in the fabrication of mahogany 
furniture in the British style. The varnish they use is declared by 
Jandolo to be an incredibly exact facsimile of that employed in 
former times. Only slight inaccuracies of proportion disclose 
that it is not the real thing. 

Weight is another factor in the determination of the age of 
furniture. A century is enough to eliminate all moisture from the 
fabric of the wood. For this reason old pieces weigh less than 
those of similar size made in recent times. As weight cannot be 
reduced by artificial means and forgers generally overlook this 
point, it is one to which experts pay special attention. The 
trademarks and workshop stamps used by the old masters are 
also highly significant in this connection. Most forgeries can be 
detected by the excess of zeal with which such indications are 
fabricated so as to be as legible and unmistakable as possible. 

Workshops* stamps are sometimes repeated at different places 
on the article. But genuine antiquities never have more than one 
trademark. If such signs are conspicuous and branded in depth 
they must be regarded with great suspicion. Eighteenth-century 
furniture is a favourite subject for imitation, as in this case 
painted, lacquered and gilded details may enable the forger to 
compensate for any shortcomings in the general effect. Some 
important factories in Italy only turn out reproductions of well- 
known originals and cannot therefore be charged with fraud. 
Their articles only acquire the character of forgeries in the hands 
of dishonest dealers or unsuspecting purchasers by whom they 
are represented as 'originals'. On the other hand, of course, 
indubitably fraudulent centres do exist for the production of 
the popular 'eighteenth-century' models. The old types are 
'improved', with a view to obtaining higher prices, by the 
addition of marquetry, painted decoration and spiral ornament. 
Recently fitted features can be distinguished from original com- 
ponents by their artificial patina, rough surface, thin layers of 
lacquer, bright glue and new nails. 

The highly prized 'Maggiolinis' are often forged. This name 
is given in Italy to nearly all the 'neo-classical' furniture which 
began to replace in public favour, towards the end of the eigh- 
teenth century, examples of the extravagant Rococo manner. The 
change was attributed to Guiseppe Maggiolini, a furniture manu- 

135 



FORGERS, DEALERS, EXPERTS 

facturer of Parabiago. After his death in 1814 his business was 
carried on by his son Carlo Francesco and his two pupils Mezzan- 
zanica and Maffezzoli. Even in the lifetime of the inventor of 
this type of furniture it began to be imitated throughout Italy 
and also north of the Alps. It is often hard to distinguish between 
the genuine and spurious pieces. A characteristic of the original 
articles was their combination of several different kinds of wood 
in their natural colours. As many as eighty-six varieties have 
been counted in a single example. The inlays have no more 
depth than that of a line drawn in ink, but never less than two 
millimetres. Modern imitators, on the other hand, are content 
with a depth of one millimetre. They employ a soft wood, while 
Maggiolini invariably worked in walnut. 

In the nineteenth century factories specialising in the produc- 
tion of 'antique' furniture were to be found in Venice, Brussels, 
Nuremberg, Cologne, Constance and Paris. For the most part 
they turned out Louis Quatorze, Quince, Seize and Empire 
models, 'formerly owned by Napoleon'. In 1916 the mass 
production of faked 'antique* furniture so impressed a certain 
legal author that he declared: 'Exceptions only prove the rule 
that genuine antique furniture has ceased to appear on the 
market.' It should not be forgotten, however, that many factories 
and dealers do not pretend that their goods are anything but 
imitations and so hardly come into the category of forgers. A 
book by Andre Mailfert, for example, entitled Au Pays des 
Antiquaires^ attracted great attention throughout France. He had 
previously owned a factory of the kind just mentioned. The 
volume gave a gossipy account of his recollections and triumphs. 
He expressly distinguishes himself from the ordinary run of 
forgers as being simply a 'furniture-copier'. 

In 1957 a huge fraudulent organisation, dealing in 'antique' 
wood-carvings and furniture, was unmasked in France. The 
chairman of the Paris art dealers' syndicate announced that 
information obtained by himself and the police proved that over 
90 per cent of all the 'antique' furniture sold in the last fifty years 
had been forged. A ring of swindlers was discovered, belonging 
to a concern with many ramifications, which supplied almost the 
whole world with spurious works of art. The biggest markets 
were stated to be America, Holland, Belgium and southern and 
western Germany. 



CHAPTER 21 



*ReaP and 'Imitation' Carpets 



ORIENTAL CARPETS have long been known as 'real* as contrasted 
with the 'imitations' manufactured in Europe. The main dif- 
ference is that the eastern variety is made by hand and the 
western by machinery. Sheep in Asia are bred in such a way that 
they grow wool peculiarly suitable for carpet-weaving. In the 
oriental 'knotting technique' each thread of yarn is not only 
drawn through the basic warp but interlocks with it. This 
process renders the carpet extremely durable. In addition to this 
practical advantage the fascinating colours and designs employed 
endow the product with genuine artistic quality. 

It is not easy to distinguish between the 'real' and the 'imita- 
tion' article. Many people believe that in eastern carpets the 
tufted ends of the pile are left loose at the edges of the fabric, 
while in the machine-made carpet they are visibly knotted up. 
But connoisseurs know that this feature may be deceptive. The 
knotted up fringe is no more than a clear proof of non-oriental 
origin. Some machine-made carpets may have free-lying ends. 

An essential characteristic of the 'real' product is the so-called 
'gradation', a variation of hue within a given field of colour in 
the pattern. This happens when the weaver runs short of a 
certain shade of dyed wool and carries on with new, redipped 
strands. Such changes lend animation to his work. They are of 
course reproduced deliberately by imitators and forgers. But 
just as in forged pictures artificially induced cracks and 'damaged' 
passages show a certain regularity in their arrangement, so in 
carpets the contrived 'gradations' do not look natural, but forced 
and systematic. 

Prices for the 'real' articles are determined by the delicacy of 
the knotting, the quality of the wool, the clipping of the tufts 

137 



FORGERS, DEALERS, EXPERTS 

after knotting, the clarity of drawing in the pattern, the beauty 
and authenticity of the colouring and the excellence and origin- 
ality of design. Correct judgment can only be based upon 
instinctive good taste in this domain of art and an understanding 
of it gained by experience. 

In former times most of these characteristics could be referred 
to their place of origin. Carpets from each locality had quite 
distinct qualities of their own. A 'Caucasian' rug is brightly 
coloured, coarsely woven and durable, the hues being obtained 
with 'genuine' traditional vegetable and mineral dyes. A 'Tabriz* 
carpet is delicately knotted and presents systems of arabesques. 
But these regional designations are no longer entirely reliable. 
For very few such genuine articles are still being produced in 
their native districts. 

The so-called 'Shirvan' and 'Caucasian' carpets, the colourful 
'Anatolian 3 rugs, the Chinese variety in pastel shades and the 
'Turkmen', sometimes dark red and decorated with cruciform, 
octagonal and rhomboid shapes, nearly all come from the places 
named. But prospective purchasers of these valuable specimens 
should not rely on their designations alone. For prized and 'dying 
out* native products are often imitated by Persian manufacturers 
and these 'spurious' articles are no longer of the old quality. Per- 
sian 'Bokharas', for instance, do not reach the standard of the 
genuine old Turkmen rugs. Before buying expensive items of this 
kind the advice of a recognised expert should be taken. But it is 
essential in any case for the amateur to study the signs by which 
true oriental carpets can be identified. These characteristics are 
clearly explained in the literature on the subject. 

Present-day production cannot compare with that of earlier 
times. Few of the regional types still maintain the 'genuine 
colouring'. Yet the modern 'Tabriz' and 'Kerman' carpets, 
richly adorned with foliage, flowers and arabesques, are of very 
high quality. Extremely durable, coarse-textured 'Heratis' and 
'Harnadans' are made to-day, as well as 'Shiraz' and similar types 
which are worth the price asked. 

In addition to the genuine oriental rugs so much in demand 
many imitations of them are sold. But special caution must be 
exercised in considering those 'exceptional offers' of 'real' 
carpets made by travelling salesmen. In 1957 a female witness at 
a trial in Cologne stated: 'The defendant called at my house and 

138 



'REAL* AND 'IMITATION* CARPETS 

told me in broken German, which I could hardly understand, 
that he was a Persian. He said that in order to raise the money 
for his fare home he was prepared to sell a genuine Persian carpet 
worth 3600 marks for 800.' He subsequently lowered this figure 
to 250. The witness continued: 'He kept talking away, saying it 
was a unique, hand-woven bargain, twenty feet long, and showed 
me a seal attached to it. I didn't know what to think!' She rang 
up her husband, who was at first delighted to hear of such a 
unique opportunity and advised her to seize it. But afterwards 
he had doubts, rushed home and was just in time to stop the 
purchase. When he demanded more detailed information about 
the rug's origin, the 'Persian' flung the money he had received 
for it on the table and shouted at the top of his voice in fluent 
German: 'All right, if you don't want it, I'll take it away!' The 
self-styled 'Persian' was obliged to confess in Court that his 
carpet wasn't 'Persian' either. It was a Belgian 'half and half 
product' which he had bought wholesale for 160 marks. His 
defence counsel pleaded: 'To charge only 250 marks for an 
article alleged to be worth 3600 can surely not be regarded as 
fraud. It's only a "Jacob's lie", which anyone can see through, 
its purpose being evident. My client might just as well have 
said he was selling a "flying carpet"!' But the Court declined to 
allow the 'Persian's' attempted transaction to pass as a joke. The 
defendant was found guilty of fraud. He was sentenced to two 
weeks' imprisonment and put on probation. 



139 



CHAPTER 22 



The Lure of Profit 



THE ROMAN ANTIQUARY Augusto Jandolo once remarked in 
conversation with a collector: 'The shortage of genuine pieces 
necessarily leads to their imitation.' 'I daresay/ retorted the 
collector. 'But there are far too many forgeries!' 'Well, in the 
last resort that's the fault of you people/ Jandolo replied. 'You 
always will have everything perfect! You're obsessed with the 
idea of something complete, in a flawless state of preservation. 
That's what gives others the idea of forgery!' 

He rightly perceived that most of such frauds arise from the 
disproportion between supply and demand. There are not nearly 
so many antiquities about as the trade needs. Nothing, accord- 
ingly, seems more natural than to supply imitations to make good 
the shortage and satisfy the demand. The collector wants 
'perfect, well-preserved items*. Consequently, the trader in 
genuine antiquities is tempted to restore or have them imitated. 

Many collectors also stimulate forgery by attaching a special 
value to 'names'. A work must be from the hand of a famous and 
much admired artist to 'amount to anything' in the eyes of the 
public. Ambroise Vollard, who did so much for the new painting 
of his day, relates in his memoirs that a certain collector, after 
being absolutely delighted by a picture offered him, suddenly 
declined it on discovering that it was by an artist not then 
generally recognised, Pissarro. Vollard also refers to a lady who 
was at first enraptured by a painting and then, on hearing its low 
price, remarked: *How disappointing! I was so pleased with that 
picture. But really, one can't buy pictures by unknown people!* 
So it's not the work of art, but its worthy in financial terms, that 
decides the question. And those terms are fixed by the artist's 
reputation. Wittielm Bode used to say that American collectors 

140 



THE LURE OF PROFIT 

and private buyers were responsible for this state of affairs. As 
their requirements were impossible to meet honestly and the 
prices they offered were fantastic, the forgers got to work. 

Most of their frauds are quite deliberate, dictated by sheer 
greed. As soon as art began to be collected and became an object 
of trade, forgeries multiplied. For the profits earned in this way 
might be large and the risk was relatively small. Coiners, at all 
times, in all countries, have been very severely punished, as a rule 
tortured to death. But the forger of works of art gets off very 
lightly. Moreover, his profits rise as the market value of art 
appreciates. When Dossena*s imitations were turned into 
forgeries by the dealers, the latter benefited to the tune of about 
forty million lire. Han van Meegeren, the forger of Vermeers, 
made about seven million marks, in a few years, by his frauds. 
He was sentenced to a year's imprisonment. 

Many forgeries undertaken on account of financial distress, 
ambition or vanity, have also been intentional. Painters and 
sculptors have considered that their work was insufficiently 
recognised. They found that productions no better than their 
own were more highly esteemed simply because they were 
executed at well-known periods or by famous 'names'. The 
neglected artists then tried the experiments of reproducing similar 
work over forged signatures or in the style of a certain epoch. 
There can be no question of fraud if the truth is made known 
immediately afterwards. Cremonese's 'Venus of Brizet* comes 
into this category of spurious works of art. Cremonese did not 
deceive anybody. He simply wished to draw attention to himself 
and give the connoisseurs 'something to think about*. Han van 
Meegeren turned forger, according to his own account, because 
he needed recognition. But after the 'success* of his experiment 
he had not the courage to make a voluntary confession and thus 
rendered himself guilty of cheating. 

Forgeries are often initiated by some ruling passion, such as 
that of collectors not rich enough to form a comprehensive 
assembly of genuine works of art but nevertheless ardently 
desirous of 'eminence' in this connection. They may, for example, 
acquire as many rough sketches as possible by some well-known 
hand and have them worked up into finished products which 
then become 'important*. Incomplete pictures and statues may 
both be 'brought to perfection* in this way. Similarly, copies or 

141 



FORGERS, DEALERS, EXPERTS 

free versions of an original may be touched up and represented as 
the original itself, thus becoming forgeries. The Millet Museum 
at Barbizon offers a melancholy instance of this sort of bogus 
collection. 

A curious case is reported in the reminiscences of Henry 
Rochefort. There was a certain eccentric picture dealer in Paris 
who would have nothing to do with original works and only 
accepted forgeries. He laboriously collected the monograms of 
old masters, which he was in the habit of inscribing on any 
suitable painting of dubious origin that came into his hands. He 
would then joyously boast to all and sundry of his new acquisition, 
saying, for example: 'You remember that wonderful Lancret I 
picked up yesterday at an auction ? Well, I've cleaned it up a bit 
and found this signature on it in full! That'll be news, won't it, 
to that fool of an expert who wouldn't commit himself to guaran- 
teeing it ?' If this strange type of collector ever did find himself 
in possession of a genuine masterpiece, duly signed by the artist 
himself, he did not hesitate, in pursuance of his mania, to obliterate 
the old signature and replace it with another. When he was 
asked why he turned pure gold into common lead in this way, 
he replied: 'Well, if I let it stand, people would soon notice that 
the signatures on my other pictures are false!' If a purchaser 
complained of having been swindled he could return the work 
and get his money back. For example, the dealer in question 
once sold an alleged Canaletto to a banker for 30,000 francs. A 
few days later the banker had it examined and certified as spurious. 
On being challenged the dealer merely smiled. 'Right,' he said. 
'Would you like to sell it back to me for 32,000?' That evening 
he told his friends: 'You're all a lot of asses! I knew that picture 
was genuine. Monsieur X bought it back from me to-day 1' Soon 
afterwards he remarked to the banker: *I don't know how to 
thank you for letting me have that wonderful Canaletto back 
again. I've just sold it for 45,000 francs. It's gone to England.' 
He really still had it in a back room. But from that moment the 
banker bought from the dealer with his eyes shut and never again 
disputed the authenticity of a purchase. The forger of mono- 
grams is said to have made 30,000 francs a year by playing this 
little game. 

Lastly, works of art have also been forged by way of a joke. 
Those in this category involve no deliberate fraud and therefore 

142 



THE LURE OF PROFIT 

do not come before the Courts. Their exposure as a rule leads 
only to amusement. But the laughter is of a kind calculated to 
teach over-enthusiastic and credulous collectors and scholars a 
much needed lesson. 

In 1726 a book by Professor Johann Bartholomaus Beringer, 
entitled, in Latin: Fossils Found at Wur%burg> Mainly in the Shapes 
of Insects, Illustrated with Marvellous Engravings, was published at 
Wiirzburg. The author, who eventually became a laughing-stock, 
was Physician in Ordinary to the Prince-Bishop of Wurzburg. 
But this eccentric scholar was more interested in prehistory than 
in medicine. 

It was on this account that some of his colleagues or pupils 
decided to play a salutary trick on him. One day Beringer came 
to the conclusion that he had made the find of his life in a marlpit 
near Wiirzburg. He unearthed a number of absolutely unique 
fossils. There were butterflies with six wings, spiders and their 
webs, gigantic bees, huge mussels and prehistoric frogs, comets, 
suns and moons, some with human faces, and tablets inscribed 
with Hebraic characters. Enraptured by his discovery of these 
objects, Beringer had drawings made of them and wrote a book 
about it all, dedicated to the Prince-Bishop. He refused to listen 
to those who warned him of possible forgery of the 'fossils', 
ascribing such admonitions to the envy of his colleagues and the 
childish innocence of his pupils. But during further excavations 
he found an inscribed stone which deprived him of all his illusions 
on the subject. Deciphering its Hebrew characters, he found that 
they spelt his own name, 'Beringer'. He withdrew his book from 
circulation. He had learned a lesson that would prevent him in 
future from jumping to conclusions. In 1767 a second edition of 
the book appeared, called The False Fossils of Wur^burg, to serve 
as a cautionary tale for over-zealous archaeologists. 

In the middle of the nineteenth century a search was made in 
Aachen Cathedral for the tomb of Charlemagne. The Important 
clues' found in many of the excavations interested other circles 
besides the scientific. Certain citi2ens of Aachen conspired to 
lay a trap for the too readily credulous investigators. A stone 
with the inscription, 'Here lie the bones of Charles the Great', 
was secretly placed among the foundations of a certain chapel. 
When the stone was 'discovered' enthusiasm ran riot in the Press. 

LONG SOUGHT TOMB OF FAMOUS EMPEROR FOUND AT LAST the 

143 



FORGERS, DEALERS, EXPERTS 

headlines proclaimed. But it was soon revealed that their joy 
was premature. The inscription had been etched and was spurious. 
Nor, in spite of further search that lasted for decades, has the 
Emperor's tomb ever been found. 

While a railway embankment was being dug on a road in 
France called the 'Chemin des Anes' a huge stone was unearthed 
bearing the apparently fragmentary inscription: 

I. C. I. E S 

TL EC HE 

M IN DE 

SA Ne S 

The meaning of these letters was long debated. Archaeologists 
conjectured that they stood for the names of Roman consuls or 
emperors. But at last one of the 'planters' of the stone read off 
the 'ancient* text without a moment's hesitation, to the amaze- 
ment of the scholars and the malicious delight of the lay public, 
as: icr EST LE CHEMIN DES ANES. This forgery, too, may be 
recorded as a warning to over-zealous men of learning. 



144 



CHAPTER 23 



In the Shadows 



THERE ARE many different kinds of bogus works of art. By no 
means all of them are deliberate swindles. Their history proves 
that a great many 'forgeries without a forger' exist. These 
include copies, overpaintings, extracts, restorations and free 
versions, which are all executed without intention to deceive 
and only later become forgeries, owing to false ascriptions. Only 
a section of all sham art is planned as such. As a rule it is the 
dealers who make big profits by consciously misleading buyers. 

The fact that forgeries of art are peculiarly successful in un- 
settled times is something more than coincidence. Forgers and 
swindlers can pursue their 'calling* undisturbed when people's 
minds are occupied by other matters. For example, when the 
troops of Napoleon were invading southern Germany, Abraham 
Wolfgang Kiiffner exploited the situation to distribute his clever 
forgeries and to steal a self-portrait by Diirer. It was during the 
excitement over the Dreyfus affair that the 'Tiara of Saitapharnes* 
was acquired by the Paris authorities. In Belgium and France, 
during the occupation of those countries in the first world war, 
the trade in bogus modern paintings flourished. The scandals in 
connection with Alceo Dossena and Otto Wacker have been 
quoted as typical consequences of that war. The last two im- 
portant trials in this field, those of the Dutchman Han van 
Meegeren and the Liibeck painter Lothar Malskat, did not merely 
chance to occur during the r6gime of the Third Reich and the 
second world war. Nor would the case of Jupp Jenniches of 
Cologne have been conceivable in any period but that of the 
aftermath of the last war. 

Most forgeries begin by being more or less free copies of 
originals. But the fundamental difference between a copy and a 

L 145 



FORGERS, DEALERS, EXPERTS 

forgery should be clearly recognised. There can be no objection 
to any artist copying another's work and selling such copies. The 
more faithful they are to the original, the more value they have 
as perfect specimens of their kind. The same may be said of 
reproductions, the technique of which has quite recently con- 
trived, by 'plastic' renderings, to give the impression of the 
original brush-strokes. But as soon as such imitations start being 
issued as original works and command correspondingly high 
prices, the copies become forgeries. 

An honest copyist, in order to prevent any such future ex- 
ploitation, usually notes on his imitation the fact that it is one. 
But in spite of this practice such copies are sometimes turned into 
forgeries by the carelessness of the purchaser, as happened, for 
instance, in the well-known case of a copy of Raphael's portrait 
of Pope Leo X. No less an artist than Andrea del Sarto (1486- 
1 5 20) prepared this copy on the instructions of one of the Medici 
family* The latter gave it out to be the original painting by 
Raphael and thus rendered it a forgery of that artist's work. But 
Andrea del Sarto was neither a forger nor a swindler. He had 
with perfect propriety initialled the copy. Many of the imitators 
of the great German, Italian, French, Spanish and Dutch masters 
have been similarly innocent, unquestionably, of the fraud by 
which their copies subsequently became forgeries. 

In discussing copies and forgeries it must not be forgotten 
that the distinct meanings now attached to these terms were not 
always recognised in the past. When Greek sculpture and 
Egyptian obelisks were imitated in ancient Rome and described 
as Greek or Egyptian art, these works were nevertheless, though 
spurious, not forgeries. Nor are the copies of well-known 
buildings and monuments which are to be seen on historic sites 
to-day and are admired by tourists as original productions. It is 
common knowledge, for example, that in the case of many such 
memorials only a few features recall the environment and the 
times of the personages to whom they relate. Instances of mere 
reproductions in important positions include Belgium's most 
popular statue, that of the 'oldest citizen of Brussels', and the 
copy of Michelangelo's 'David' in front of the Palazzo Vecchio 
in Florence. 

Certain contemporaries and imitators of Rembrandt (1606-69) 
not only painted in his style but used his signature. Yet they were 

146 



IN THE SHADOWS 

not necessarily fraudulent forgers in the modern sense. Some of 
the works of such artists as Gerard Dou, Nicolas Maes, Ferdinand 
Bol, Govaert Flinck, Aert de Gelder and Gerbrand van den 
Eeckhout are so completely Rembrandtesque that it is simply 
not possible for a present-day critic to distinguish them from 
canvases by the great master (see illustration). Immerzeel writes 
of a portrait by Bol that 'it is painted so wholly in Rembrandt's 
manner that when it is seen in isolation it could not only be taken 
for a work by that incomparable artist but actually for one of his 
finest pictures'. 

It is particularly hard in the case of Peter Paul Rubens (i 577- 
1640) to tell originals from copies. The pupils and colleagues 
who worked in his studio were very numerous. No modern 
critic can therefore say for certain which of the pictures current 
under his name were really painted by himself. They amount 
in all to about three thousand. Many of them were no doubt 
executed by his best pupil Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641) and 
others of less note. Rubens, in his grand way, cared nothing for 
distinctions between originals, copies and imitations. But he 
never made the slightest attempt to hoodwink anyone. He wrote, 
for example, in 1618 to Sir Dudley Carlton concerning a 'Last 
Judgment' copied by a pupil from the picture now at Munich, 
'As this reproduction is not yet quite completed, I am going to 
retouch it throughout myself. So it can pass for an original if 
necessary/ Sir Dudley, characteristically enough, wanted pictures 
described by Rubens as his own. But the artist tried to convince 
the Englishman that the others were by no means 'just copies'. 
'I have retouched them to such effect that they can hardly be 
distinguished from the originals . . . they are perfect miracles at 
the price.' The master, by thus stressing his collaboration with 
other painters and taking the fact into consideration when 
calculating his charges, was deliberately disassociating himself 
from the conduct typical of forgers and swindlers. 

Yet in our own day Rubens has been called a 'forger of works 
of art'. The American art historian Charles Roger Bordley, who 
lives in Paris, accuses this 'moderately gifted' painter of fraud 
because he offered for sale works by other artists as his own and 
thereby acquired a great reputation. Bordley seeks to prove, in a 
volume which is the fruit of thirty years' study, that most of the 
pictures supposed to be by Rubens were really executed by the 

147 



FORGERS, DEALERS, EXPERTS 

manager of his studio Frans Snyders (1579-1657). 'Snyders', he 
writes, 'produced masterpieces which served to promote the 
fame of some of his contemporaries, above all that of the shrewdest 
business man in the whole history of art, Rubens/ This state- 
ment represents the hitherto accepted history of Flemish painting 
in Ruben's time as a myth. The American scholar's bold heresy 
was criticised by the "Els&viers Weekbladm the following terms : 'If 
Bordley's argument meets with general assent, the extensive 
literature we possess dealing with Peter Paul Rubens and Anthony 
van Dyck at once becomes obsolete and will have to be drastically 
revised. All the big galleries will be obliged to rewrite their 
catalogues and the paintings alleged to be by these masters 
which are still on the market will immediately lose, with their 
present attribution, a considerable proportion of their com- 
mercial value/ But for the moment no such thing has happened. 
The question has first to be decided whether Rubens falsified his 
works or whether Bordley's daring pronouncement falsified the 
situation. 

It is certain that centres of art forgery already existed in the 
days of the great Flemish painters. The Antwerp dealer Gerrit 
Uhlenbroch employed young artists without means as copyists. 
His activities were revealed when the Elector of Brandenburg 
believed himself to have been defrauded. Uhlenbroch appealed 
to the municipality. They appointed fifty experts to decide the 
matter. But no agreement could be reached. At that period 
protests were already being made against art forgery and measures 
called for to restrain it. At the beginning of the eighteenth 
century Arnold Houbraken wrote: *I find it intolerable that 
people should be pestered with copies and daubs masquerading 
as originals, which everyone is then supposed to admire.' The 
most notorious scandal relating to copies occurred between the 
wars in connection with Wacker's trial for the sale of bogus Van 
Goghs'. 

A clever trick involving the substitution of copies for an 
original was played by a dealer who exhibited in his shop, on an 
easel, a splendid picture by a famous master. Behind it, in the 
same blind frame, an exact copy of the original was inserted. 
Many buyers were attracted and the genuine painting was sold 
over and over again. For the dealer explained, on every occasion, 
after concluding the bargain, that he would like to pack up the 

148 



IN THE SHADOWS 

work carefully for delivery, but that the new owner had better 
certify that it was now his property by writing his name on the 
back of the picture. The unsuspecting customer would do so and 
subsequently receive, not the original, but the copy underneath 
it. The fraud was not discovered until a less trustful client 
insisted on taking the original with him. 

Church authorities are not in the habit of checking their 
purchases very rigorously. Consequently, it is relatively easy in 
such cases to substitute copies for originals. In the past, when 
authenticity was not so systematically investigated as it is to-day, 
there can be little doubt that old paintings and statues were often 
replaced by forgeries. But as lately as July 1959 a scandal of this 
kind arose at Lille in France. The venerable miracle-working 
statue of the Virgin in the basilica of Notre Dame de la Treille, 
which had been made a cathedral in 1913, disappeared. Thieves 
had substituted for it the cast carried in processions. But the 
mantle which had covered the original figure, as well as the 
costly crowns of Mother and Child, had not been taken. Only 
the statue itself, dating from the thirteenth century, had been 
removed. 

Forgeries are very often contrived by the simple expedient 
of affixing a false signature. Such a procedure is of course 
deliberately misleading and involves fraud. Sometimes the works 
so treated are of early date. Proof of forgery is then very difficult 
to establish. It is especially so when only a single letter of the 
original signature is altered. One such case is reported as follows 
in FrimmePs Art of Painting. c One of the items in the Jakobsen 
collection at Copenhagen is a double portrait undoubtedly to be 
assigned, on the evidence of costume and style, to the second 
half of the sixteenth century. The hands are treated in the same 
way as those in NeufchatePs portrait of Neudorfer at Munich. 
The range of colours employed is also very close to that painter's. 
He was active at Nuremberg after 1561 and died not earlier than 
1590, But the date 1520 is inscribed on the Jakobsen picture. 
That surprised me. I examined the work closely and repeatedly. 
It is unquestionably old and not a forgery. There is nothing 
suspicious about the inscription, AETATIS SUAE 41. ANO 1 520, with 
the exception of the date. The cracking of the canvas follows 
the same pattern as in other paintings on this material of about 
that period. But under the 2 of the date fissuring has been almost 

149 



FORGERS, DEALERS, EXPERTS 

imperceptibly painted over at certain points. The upper portion 
of the 2 is old and genuine. But the lower is not. At some time 
or other a 7 has been turned into a 2 by the application of an 
oblique brush-stroke at the bottom. It was probably supposed 
that a picture dated 1 5 20 would be worth more than one of 1 5 70.* 

Forgeries with similarly 'amended' signatures, or with new, 
false signatures appended, have been very common for centuries. 
In Germany they were particularly associated with the name of 
Dxirer. In the lifetime of that master, when it was already proving 
difficult to stem the flow of imitations of his works, the use of 
an artist's sign-manual by anyone but himself was prohibited. 

Even in those days the productions of unknown and insignifi- 
cant painters had been made Important' by the addition of a 
great master's signature. During the following centuries, no 
doubt, great numbers of worthless creations had been 'enriched' 
by the magical suggestions of a name in this way. The appearance 
of a master's token in a modern forgery is also regarded as 
decisive proof of intent to defraud. 

Copies are often more or less freely executed and transposed 
in detail. A common practice is to turn a design the other way 
round by the use of tracing paper. Forgers are also fond of 
reproducing individual passages of an original as separate works. 
It is relatively easy to cut out, so to speak, one group or even a 
single figure from reliefs or pictures which contain many scenes 
or personages and exhibit them in isolation. A forged 'Goya' 
was once identified at a showing of that artist's paintings by the 
fact that it represented solely the group of figures in the Spanish 
master's own well-known 'Crock-sellers'. 

A more cunning type of forger may take extracts and details 
from a number of different originals and combine them in a single 
work. For example, the travelling exhibitions of forgeries which 
started from Holland contained a sham Holbein, a portrait in 
which the head and the hands had been copied from two different 
originals. It was this fact which led to its identification. Forgers 
of 'Gauguins* produce new South Sea scenes by lifting' typical 
figures from his various representations of standing and squatting 
Tahitian women. Han van Meegeren proceeded in the same way 
in the case of his two Pieter de Hooch forgeries, in which indi- 
vidual figures and motives from different pictures by the Dutch 
master appear. 

150 



IN THE SHADOWS 

Some forgers specialise in the painting over of engravings, 
photographs and other types of print. In former times they 
repeatedly turned black and white works and drawings into 
coloured pictures. Well-known examples of such productions, 
though in this case they were not all intended to deceive, are the 
early versions painted of Dxirer's motives. Even at the Court of 
the Indian Moguls of the seventeenth century drawings by Diirer, 
brought by missionaries, were bound in gorgeous portfolios and 
painted over in a free style by the native artists employed by the 
sovereign. This comparatively simple process was naturally 
continued by the forgers of later times. A certain Jan Pieter 
coloured engravings by Rubens, which he then sold at high 
prices. But eventually his own country grew too hot to hold him 
and he migrated to England. Like the hardened cynic he was, 
he once wrote: 

Pieter Jan, the trading man, 
by nature is a charlatan. 
In art an anabaptist, he 
humbugs the world in trickery! 

Some years ago, in Vienna, an ingenious fraud was perpetrated 
in connection with two water-colours by Rudolf von Alt (1812- 
1905). A dishonest servant was persuaded by a dealer to let him 
have the originals, while the owners were away, in order that 
copies might be made. A few days later the dealer brought the 
pictures back. But they were imitations. Exact photographs of 
the works had been taken and printed on water-colour paper 
rendered sensitive to light. These had then been copied and 
coloured by hand. When the originals and the forgeries were 
laid side by side no difference worth mentioning could be per- 
ceived even in the most delicate tones. 

Counterfeiters often affix ordinary colour-reproductions to old 
canvas or board and then apply fresh colour. A Viennese scandal 
concerned with an alleged 'Memling, Rogier van der Weyden or 
Bouts' is related by Eudel-Roessler. The picture looked as if it 
had been painted on an old, worm-eaten oak panel. The old 
trademark of the Amsterdam Guild of St Luke had been branded 
into the wood. The very fissurings seemed genuine. A well- 
known Viennese collector offered 20,000 kronen for the work, 
provided it were guaranteed by an expert. When the latter took 



FORGERS, DEALERS, EXPERTS 

the picture out of its frame, he immediately exclaimed: This is 
simply a faked print on paper!* It was found to be an ordinary 
colour-plate, one of those illustrated in an album of reprints of 
works by old masters which was issued by the firm of Fischer 
and Franke under the editorship of Bode and Friedlander. The 
paper had been carefully affixed to an old, worn out panel, the 
tell-tale edges had been smoothed away, the cracks shown in the 
print had been etched in with the needle and rubbed over with 
dark colour. Then the entire surface had been heavily varnished. 

Similar treatment was applied to a genuine water-colour by 
Eugfene Isabey (i 804-86) in order to render it in oils. Oil paintings 
by this artist being very rare, the dealer had not hesitated to forge 
one from an authentic water-colour. The paper of the genuine 
work was first rendered transparent by rubbing the back. Then 
it was pasted on a wooden panel and pressed in, so firmly that it 
seemed part of the wood itself. Next, the tones were given 
chemical treatment to bring them out. When a thick varnish was 
applied the effect was just the same as that of an oil-painting. The 
picture fetched high prices at various auctions. But eventually 
damage to the varnish revealed the fragility of the colouring and 
drawing. This discovery proved the work to be a forgery. 

Transformation from one medium to another is a favourite 
device for the production of counterfeits. Not only are oil- 
paintings concocted from prints and water-colours but sculptures 
are often modelled on pictures and vice versa. New drawings 
may be made on the basis of an already existent oil and then 
represented as preliminary studies for it. Lothar Malskat per- 
formed this feat in connection with Renoir's 'The Bath'. Other 
cases in which sculptures were taken from paintings included 
forgeries imitative of Diirer's works, the Tiara of Saitapharnes, 
the bust of Flora and the productions of Alceo Dossena. 

The so-called 'aristocrats' among art forgers, however, do not 
copy or combine different media. In a sense they create afresh, 
inspired by the spirit of the past. This is the case especially with 
works not intended to deceive, which are simply the fruit of a 
certain type of enthusiasm for the art of former times. Giovanni 
Bastianini, Alceo Dossena and in our own day Beppi Rifesser 
belong to this group. Naturally enough, the productions of such 
artists do show affinities with and even direct borrowings from 
particular works of the past. But it cannot be denied that an 

152 




45 

Malskat at an exhibition of 
his works. After his release 
from prison, Malskat arranged 
an exhibition of his paintings 
in a number of towns in 
North Germany to show his 
merits as an artist. 



46 

Forged paintings by Malskat. 
Nude in the style of Toulouse- 
Lautrec and painting in the 
style of Chagall. These were 
both exhibited in Essen as 
examples of modern forgeries. 



47 

Water-colour by Emil 
Nolde (1867-1956). Model 
for a forgery by Jupp 
Jenniches, a museum 
attendant, who took a 
tracing of the original 
from which he made a 
reversed impression. 




48 

Forgery by Jupp Jenniches 
of a water-colour by Emil 
Nolde. There is a signi- 
ficant difference between 
the original and the for- 
gery: Nolde's lifelike por- 
trait of a woman has 
become flat, like a drawing 
for a poster. 





49 

'Virgin and Child.' Wood carving 
by Beppi Rifesser, St Ulrich, 
Southern Tyrol. The figure was 
accepted by a Viennese firm of 
auctioneers as a Burgundian 
carving of c. 1380 and exhibited 
as such. 



Rifesser at work in his studio 
at St Ulrich. When he heard 
of the attribution given to his 
carving, he came forward and 
cleared up the whole matter. 




51 Genuine or forgery? Eight versions of the Nona Lisa make a puzzle for 
the art lover. This famous painting has constantly figured in questions 
of forgery although no expert has ever doubted the authenticity of the 
painting in the Louvre. 



IN THE SHADOWS 



original, personal element is also present. Even Han van Mee- 
geren, the forger of 'Vermeers', contrived to assimilate his own 
style to that of the former idiom of Delft so closely as to delude 
specialists themselves. 

Another form of forgery is constituted by the splitting up of 
works originally produced as a whole. This trick is much more 
prevalent than is generally believed. It began with the separation 
of altar-wings from their centrepieces and culminated in the 
positive dissection of paintings. The object was to create more 
favourable conditions for disposal, especially in the case of 
representations of crowded scenes where the subject was not of 
much interest, and also, in particular, to make a much higher 
profit by selling separate sections individually. The history of 
Manet's 'Execution of Maximilian', for example, is related in 
Vollard's memoirs. Manet's brother-in-law remarked that c the 
picture may be unsaleable as it stands. But we might be able to 
do something about it. That sergeant, for instance, who is just 
loading his rifle, could pass as a genre figure in isolation/ So the 
sergeant was cut out and sold separately to Edgar Degas, who 
was told that the rest of the painting had been accidentally ruined. 
When he heard the news Degas, who was not exactly domestically 
minded, exclaimed: That's what comes of having a family I* 

Augusto Jandolo writes that 'the step from restoration to 
forgery is soon taken'. It is true that in most restored works old 
and new passages can no longer be distinguished. And forgery 
arises as soon as the original state begins to be renovated, with 
consequent alteration. Former ages judged these matters differ- 
ently. The impression made by a work of art was regarded as 
more important than its original condition. Consequently, no 
one hesitated to complete and 'make like new' the antique 
productions then discovered. Even famous works were falsified 
in this way. The *Laocoon', for instance, found at Rome in 1506, 
was disfigured by the sculptor Montorsoli, one of Michelangelo's 
collaborators, who 'completed' it. Further components of the 
group were unearthed in 1905 by the German archaeologist 
Pollak. They showed that the original had been quite differently 
composed. The renowned sculptures from the temple at Aegina, 
now in the Munich Glyptothek, were also restored by the well- 
meant efforts of Thorwaldsen, which nevertheless amounted to 
forgery. Missing portions were carved in marble and fastened 

153 



FORGERS, DEALERS, EXPERTS 

to the originals with iron plugs. It was realised that these 
restorations were quite incompetent and bore little relation to 
the grouping of the figures. But no one ventured to revise them. 
An opportunity was thus missed to state authoritatively which 
parts were old, which new and which had been remodelled in any 
way. Thorwaldsen himself, in his old age, could no longer 
describe the character and extent of his 'restorations'. 

Goethe in his Italian Journey of 1786 refers to a quarrel about 
the restoration of antiques in Rome. A French collector 'had 
acquired, goodness knows where, an ancient fresco. He had it 
restored by Mengs and gave it an honoured place in his collection. 
Winckelmann mentions it somewhere with great admiration . . . 
Then the Frenchman died, bequeathing the picture, as an 
antique, to his landlady. When Mengs lay dying, he said the 
work was not ancient at all and that he had painted it all himself. 
A great controversy ensued. Some people said it was just a 
careless sketch by Mengs, done as a joke. Others swore that 
Mengs would never have been able to do such a thing, for even 
Raphael could hardly have produced anything so beautiful/ 

The grand scale on which artists in earlier times completed, 
overpainted and consequently altered original pictures is illus- 
trated by the fate of the wings of Diirer's 'Baumgartner Altar- 
piece'. The forged background, by Johann Georg Fischer, was 
not removed until 1903, nearly three hundred years after its 
execution. No doubt other famous pictures are still extant which 
have been partially overpainted. In 1955 J. W. Karstens, a 
Zandvoort restorer, made the sensational discovery of a genuine 
work by the Dutch landscape painter Jacob van Ruysdael 
(1625-82) underneath a 'Ruysdael* which had been 'improperly* 
restored and overpainted. 

Nowadays opinions differ about the desirability of restorations. 
Some people complain bitterly of the inconsiderate removal of 
top layers of pigment, which may date from the initial period of 
the work. It was objected, for example, that the restoration of 
the Rembrandt landscape at Kassel involved the elimination of 
a genuine old overpainting by Rembrandt himself. Max Lieber- 
mann, again, is known to have been furious at the restoration, 
excessive in his view, of Rembrandt's 'Family Portrait' at Bruns- 
wick. It has also been asserted that Rubens's famous 'Straw Hat* 
was so over-cleaned that sections of the underpainting have 



IN THE SHADOWS 

become visible in the background. On the other hand, there is 
much enthusiasm for modern methods of restoration, which, it is 
claimed, do away with every conceivable type of alteration and 
distortion and recapture the original effect. The pictures thus 
treated are declared to have never looked 'so radiant'. 

But the Lxibeck scandal in which Malskat and Fey were con- 
cerned proves that even to-day restoration is sometimes under- 
taken for a fraudulent purpose. That affair revealed with shocking 
clarity how dangerous such procedures can be. As a result, 
regulations defining the limits of correct restoration were laid 
down, perhaps for the first time in the history of art, in order to 
prevent, so far as possible, such forgeries as were perpetrated at 
St Mary's Church in Liibeck and at other places of worship in 
northern Germany. 

No doubt many forgeries consequent upon restoration come 
under the heading of those 'without a forger'. This expression 
denotes works executed with no intent to defraud and only 
grouped as forgeries owing to false attribution. They are to be 
found in all departments of art. The Benivieni bust is cited as a 
typical example of such productions. In painting, certain school 
works and early copies have been attributed to their 'original' 
and thus became forgeries. Pictures by Diirer's followers 
obviously belong to this group. 

But many counterfeits were planned and executed as such. In 
these cases the responsible artist committed forgery, as did 
Kiiffner with his 'Self -portrait of Albrecht Diirer' (see illustra- 
tion), Wacker with his Van Goghs' and Han van Meegeren with 
his 'Vermeers' and 'Pieter de Hoochs'. Even well-known and 
important artists have been guilty of forgery through their 
heedless signature of the works of others. Phidias is reported 
to have signed a sculpture by his favourite pupil Agoracritus. In 
1951 Picasso observed to Aly Khan: 'If the counterfeit were a 
good one, I should be delighted. I'd sit down straightaway and 
sign it.' Ingres was so pleased with the copy of his portrait of 
Bertin executed by Amaury Duval, a pupil of the master, that he 
readily signed the work. It is known that Corot and Utrillo also 
signed school works and thereby created forgeries by appending 
a genuine signature. 

It has also been repeatedly proved that artists of importance, 
for one reason or another, have repudiated their own productions 



FORGERS, DEALERS, EXPERTS 

by signing them with the names of other painters. Vollard reports 
in his Memoirs that 'Gauguin once gave Mme Gloanec, who kept 
the inn where he was staying, a wonderful still life as a birthday 
present. A member of the Committee of Fine Art of the Paris 
Town Council happened to be staying at the inn at the same time. 
As soon as he heard the name of Gauguin, he declared in so 
many words that he would leave the inn at once if any picture by 
"that swine" were hung in the public room. Accordingly, 
Gauguin, so that Mme Gloanec could decorate her walls with his 
gift and still not lose a resident, signed the work 'Madeleine B'. 
This was the name of fimile Bernard's sister, who was staying, 
with her brother, at the same inn/ The picture was later acquired 
by Maurice Denis. Mozart's 'Requiem' nearly became a forgery 
in this sense. It had been commissioned by a patron who wished 
to publish it as his own work. If the music had ever been finished, 
it might have become known under a different name. 

Questions of authenticity are sometimes raised by the frequent 
phenomenon of duplicates from the same hand, which are of 
course distinct from copies by another person. In former times 
artists did not hesitate to produce replicas of thek work. But 
to-day such repetitions are regarded as unacceptable. Hanns 
Gross, Professor of Criminal Law at the University of Czernowite, 
designates all duplicates of works of art as, 'from a juristic 
standpoint', forgeries. Ferdinand Hodler was censured for 'wil- 
ful' deceit on account of his four versions of the 'Woodcutter'. 

Many other artists, either in compliance with a contract, 
because they needed money or because the original work had 
been lost, have produced replicas, copies or slightly variant 
versions of it. Van Gogh's duplicates, for instance, were executed 
because he was short of cash. He thus made it easy for forgers, 
at a later date, to offer copies as originals. At that time artists 
had no particular objection to repeating themselves. When a 
collector visited the Douanier Rousseau to fetch a picture he had 
ordered, the painter confessed that he had sold it, as he was in 
need of money. But he promised his client to produce another 
picture 'exactly like it' in a few days' time. 

In 1903 Anders Zorn asked the National Museum of Stockholm 
for the loan of his 'Midsummer Dance*, on exhibition at that 
establishment, as he wished to show the painting in Copenhagen. 
But his request was refused. So he painted a duplicate, which was 

156 



IN THE SHADOWS 



duly displayed in the Danish capital Marc Chagall had left behind 
in Berlin, on his departure from the city in 1 9 1 4, a number of works 
painted in his first Paris period. On his return to Germany eight 
years later, the pictures had disappeared. He accordingly pro- 
duced replicas. Karl Hofer did the same thing when many of his 
works were destroyed in an air raid on Berlin during the second 
world war. Such duplicates are in general repudiated by con- 
noisseurs and described as a variety of forgery. It is usually main- 
tained that there can be only one original work by an artist and that 
all subsequent productions of a similar character are imitations. 

Auguste Rodin drew a clear distinction between originals and 
replicas. According to Vollard a lady visitor once handed him 
a certain bronze statuette. 'That's a wonderfully fine cast!' he 
exclaimed. He took an exactly similar cast from a shelf and stood 
it beside the other. 'They're both perfect/ he remarked thought- 
fully. 'And yet one of them is spurious. But which?* He went 
on at once to explain what he meant. 'I consider a work by myself 
to be genuine when I have given permission for it to be cast, but 
spurious if it is cast without my consent. In the case of this 
statuette I only authorised a single cast. But obviously two were 
made. Which is the genuine one?* 

As a rule forgeries are perpetrated behind the artist's back by 
fraudulent dealers, like Schapschelle Hochman, Alfredo Fasoli, 
the 'wood-worm king' Romano Palesi, Otto Wacker and Josef 
Auer, But this list is by no means exhaustive. Names could be 
added taken from all periods, countries and fields of art. In 1955, 
for example, a Seville 'Lothar Malskat* turned up. His name was 
Manuel Monedero and he was a pupil of the well-known Spanish 
painter Romero Resendi, a specialist in Andalusian scenes. At 
the beginning of November 1955 Resendi's agent Rafael Grosso 
offered eleven of his employer's pictures for sale at astonishingly 
low prices to the Cubiles Gallery at Seville. He explained that 
they had been produced 'in an ecstasy*. That was why they were 
so cheap and so different from the master's other works in style 
and technique. After some preliminary hesitation Cubiles bought 
up the lot at a nominal price. When Resendi heard of the tran- 
saction he exposed the paintings as forgeries. Thirty similar 
productions were discovered. Grosso confessed that Monedero 
had sold him the counterfeits for very little and that his own 
resale of them as Resendi's had rendered them forgeries. 

157 



FORGERS, DEALERS, EXPERTS 

Anatole France observes that the trade of an art dealer is 
incompatible with honesty. As a student of cultural history he 
was astonished, he writes, to find in Augusto Jandolo of Rome 'a 
dealer who told the truth. The fact seemed so extraordinary that 
I had to pass it on when I returned to Paris. But I was sure 
before I started that no one would believe me/ Jandolo himself 
commented on this passage: 'Prophetic words by a genius!' 
Picasso once grimly remarked: 'Museums contain nothing more 
than a pack of lies and people who make a trade of art are usually 
swindlers/ A Munich Public Prosecutor declared in 1958: 'Art 
dealing is a business in which it is easy to go off the rails/ The 
history of art substantiates this opinion. 

In 1782 Prange wrote in his School of Painting: 'Dealers often 
treat new paintings with smoke in order to give them the appear- 
ance of age in a short time/ Pictures were often 'baked*, so as 
to 'run* the colours and also produce cracks and fissuring. While 
still warm from the oven, they were smeared with a decoction 
of milk, ashes, soot and extract of liquorice and ingeniously 
spotted with traces of dirt, mildew and flyblow. In 1830 the 
method of forging cracks was described as follows: 'They are 
best produced if they are literally engraved and then darkened 
to their characteristic tone by rubbing in colour/ Han van 
Meegeren's trial revealed many of the secrets of modern 'per- 
fected' art forgery. 

Old freehand drawings are relatively easy to imitate. A certain 
Belgian forger, for example, specialised in imitations of Boucher, 
Lancret and Pater. He ransacked second-hand bookshops for 
eighteenth-century ledgers with blank, unlined pages, bought up 
the coarse-grained paper, fumigated it, singed the edges, tattered 
them and then covered the sheets with drawings in black and 
white chalk in eighteenth-century style. Dealers added the 
initials or abbreviations of the artists' names, which completed 
the forgery. The sheet would then be pasted on white, gilt- 
edged paper and suitably framed under glass. 

'Antique' sculpture and furniture are manufactured from 
genuine old, worm-eaten wood. In former times the worm-holes 
in furniture were artificially made by shotgun bullets. But to-day 
even laymen are aware that real worm-holes are not bored in a 
straight line but wind about in various directions. The bogus 
worm-hole is therefore comparatively easy to identify. But it 

158 



IN THE SHADOWS 

is more difficult to recognise the signs of 'age' produced by acids 
acting on stone and metal 

Alleged antiquity in forgeries is indicated by the infliction of 
damage. In paintings attention is drawn to cracks and other 
tokens of the passage of time. In statues projecting parts, such 
as the arms, are broken off. A certain 'pattern* in the incidence of 
such injuries often leads to the detection of the work as a forgery. 
The c Tiara of Saitapharnes*, for instance, when it first appeared 
in Vienna, was immediately regarded with great suspicion on 
this ground alone. It is possible for even the untrained eye to 
notice the difference between the traces of damage really caused 
in the distant past and those applied artificially at a later time. 

Dealers also invent a 'suitable' history for their items by 
referring to mysterious circumstances, difficult to check, and 
thus dissipating any doubts that may occur to their customers. 
They may talk about 'excavations' on the shores of the Black 
Sea, possible interference by 'Russian collectors' and medieval 
altars. Or they may say that the article was formerly in a well- 
known collection, thus implying its 'authenticity'. 

As a rule they are responsible for the additional details of a 
forgery, such as the introduction or alteration of signatures and 
dates. The change of a single figure or letter may be enough to 
put the date of origin back a century or indicate a famous name. 
Alternatively, the dealer may remove some detail insignificant 
in itself but constituting evidence of the real period. Jandolo, 
for instance, relates that the hand of a marble statue alleged to 
be by Canova was struck off by a dealer because it held a small 
pitcher typical of more recent times. The stoty of the portrait 
of Blucher given by the National Socialist Party to Marshal von 
Blomberg shows how ready a dealer may be to carry out the 
wishes of a patron. Again, a picture may have its size altered and 
be 'suitably cut up* for various reasons. Such processes take 
place more often than is generally supposed. Groups of figures 
are broken up and individual statues 'concocted'. In 1956, for 
example, the robbers of a church in a mining district constructed 
out of various old images of women a forgery of that of St 
Barbara which they had stolen. 

Obviously the price asked by a dealer for a work affects the 
question of its authenticity. If a 'Rembrandt', for instance, is 
offered at a very low figure, it must be spurious. But if the quota- 



FORGERS, DEALERS, EXPERTS 

tion Is astronomical, the genuine character of the work may 
fairly be assumed. Van Meegeren told the Court, at his trial, 
that he had to charge big prices because otherwise no one would 
have believed that the pictures he offered were originals. 

The production and distribution of forgeries is much facilitated 
by the attribution to them of well-known names and great age. 
At every period certain artists and styles are more highly valued 
than others. Works which do not quite come into such favoured 
categories are 'manipulated' by some more or less gifted forger 
to simulate the art in demand. Max Friedlander writes : 'The name 
of a master arouses feelings which obscure the spectator's per- 
ceptions of the elements of colour and design composing the 
work before him.' Examples of the truth of this statement are 
the Benivieni bust, the bust of Flora, the productions of Alceo 
Dossena, Wacker's Van Goghs', the 'Spitzwegs* of the Third 
Reich, the 'Noldes' of the Cologne museum attendant and the 
countless imitations of outstanding French artists. If some 
famous name is suddenly connected with any particular painting 
its price may increase to ten, a hundred or a thousand times the 
original figure for that reason alone. But if it turns out that the 
picture is a forgery the quotation drops back at once to next to 
nothing. At the auction of van Meegeren's effects 300 gulden 
were paid for a painting in the style of Pieter de Hooch which, 
when believed to be an original, had commanded a figure of over 
200,000. 

A characteristic instance of the influence of a name is the wide 
distribution, some decades ago, of forgeries of works by Leibl. 
According to Waldmann sixty such forgeries were current 
between 1914 and 1920, when Wilhelm Leibl's pictures had a 
great vogue. There was also a painter called Eibl, whose 
signature was converted by unscrupulous forgers into 'Leibl' 
through the addition of an initial L. A certain portrait of a 
'Bavarian Officer* was included in an exhibition of LeibPs works 
at Cologne and subsequently, in 1929, at the Academy of Fine 
Art in Berlin. This picture had been painted by Professor Hans 
Blum of Munich, whose signature was, however, later removed 
and repkced by that of Leibl. It is shameful fact that as Blum's 
work it was sold at an auction for 800 marks, but afterwards, as 
a 'genuine' Leibl, disposed of to an eminent Berlin diplomat for 
110,000! 

1 60 



IN THE SHADOWS 

Many similar instances could be cited to prove that the market 
value of a picture soars when associated with a well-known name. 
It is not the intrinsic merit of a work, but the cash quotation for 
it, which counts for the trade. Such figures are entirely deter- 
mined by ascriptions. Superstitious respect for a name tends to 
cancel out interest in the product itself, as can be very clearly 
illustrated from experience in the theatrical world. When the 
famous Yvette Guilbert complained, in New York, that the 
setting for her stage appearance was not impressive enough, she 
was told: c My dear lady, we don't need any artists for that job. 
All we need is a name to put on the programme. We pay you 
for your name. We don't care in the least about anything else.* 
One might well be reminded of this typical business man's state- 
ment at many a 'sale of works of art'. 

But it is not only the name of the artist but also that of the 
dealer and especially that of the expert which count in assessing 
the market value of fine art. The judgment of such connoisseurs 
as the Comte de Nieuwekerke, Eduard Reinach, Wilhelm Bode 
or Abraham Bredius is accepted with such devotion that the work 
is subsequently studied, to all appearance, through the eyes of 
that particular specialist alone. The attributions made by such 
authorities have favoured, even more than the artistic merits of 
the product, the acceptance of many forgeries which were after- 
wards exposed. 

The ecstatic delight experienced by scholars in making dis- 
coveries is only too encouraging to the forger. Edmond Locard, 
Director of the Police Laboratory at Lyons, who was much con- 
cerned with questions of art forgery, wrote in 1928: 'Scientists 
are always supposed to be coldly objective. But in reality many 
of them are as dazzled by their particular passion as children. If 
these gentlemen did not so often take an x for a u, plenty of 
forgers would not find it so easy to hoodwink them. Quite a 
number of the said authorities really seem to be stupider than any 
ignorant yokel.' The severity of Locard's views is accounted for 
by his involvement in the 'Glozel Riddle'. It cannot be denied 
that scientists in that case showed a most reprehensible vacillation 
and credulity. History proves that the results of investigations 
by experts have often led to the acceptance of forgeries as 
authentic. 

Many examples could be given of neglect of the obvious and 
M 161 



FORGERS, DEALERS, EXPERTS 

needlessly complex theories which were of actual assistance to 
the forger. One of Dossena's works carried the initials s M, 
probably intended by the sculptor to stand for 'Santa Maria*. 
But certain experts, not content with so simple an explanation, 
believed that the letters referred to Simone Martini (1285-1344). 
The 'sensational* discovery of a pot inscribed M.J.D.D. was much 
ridiculed. A member of the French Academy of Inscriptions 
deciphered the initials, after much study, as those of Magno Jovi 
Deorum Deo - 'To the great Jupiter, God of Gods*. He did not 
notice that the pot was not antique, but modern, and not dedi- 
cated to Jupiter, but to mustard. For the letters were merely an 
abbreviation vtMoutardeJaune de Dijon - "Yellow Dijon Mustard* ! 

In 1958 a similar case of exultation over the discovery of 'old* 
pictures occurred at Vorst Castle near Merano. A representative 
of the Trent Monuments Office believed he had detected under 
a thin coating of whitewash traces of a fresco dating from the 
time when the castle was built. In great excitement he at once 
ordered the removal of an espresso coffee machine as 'barbarously 
prejudicial to the preservation of a Gothic fresco*. The domestic 
staff explained that the painting was quite new. But the Professor 
told the cook to 'shut up and get out!* He demanded that every- 
one should leave the room, so that he could examine the remains 
of the fresco in peace. But a certain Fellin then appeared and 
informed him: 'That painting isn't old at all! I did it myself, just 
for fun!* It took some time to convince the learned visitor that 
his discovery had been somewhat premature and had nearly led 
to the promotion of a forgery. 

Such examples of the way in which forgeries gain currency in 
consequence of mistaken attributions by experts prove that little 
reliance can be placed on the so called 'Expertise* or guarantee 
of the authenticity of a work of art. As very few people now care 
to trust their own judgment such certificates are given on a scale 
which represents a real danger. Max Friedlander complained: 
'Nowadays scarcely a picture is sold without a document in 
which someone certifies that the work is by this or that master 
. . . but this nuisance is in present circumstances a necessary evil,* 
Abraham Bredius, whose erroneous ascription of the 'Disciples 
at Emtnaus* gave rise to one of the greatest scandals in art history, 
has roundly declared: 'Whenever I judge a work I always say, 
Don't forget that Fm a human being and that to err is human . . . 

162 



IN THE SHADOWS 

the fact should never be lost sight of that even a first-rate con- 
noisseur's "certificate" is not the utterance of an oracle but 
merely an expression of opinion not necessarily infallible/ It 
should also be remembered that many such guarantees' are given 
as a 'favour*, with criminal levity and, last but not least, some- 
times by persons quite unqualified to do so. Augusto Jandolo's 
account of the origin of the 'Savelli Tomb* exposes a typical 
instance of the preparation of false "guarantees* by fraudulent 
traders. In January 1959 the careless granting of certificates and 
the way in which bogus documents of this kind are circulated by 
dishonest dealers were revealed at a trial in Brussels. Auction 
catalogues prepared by the Trussart Gallery advertised original 
works by many important painters, accompanied by the certifi- 
cates of well-known connoisseurs. But in fact some of these 
documents simply did not exist, while others had been prepared 
from photographs, without reference to the actual picture. The 
Court passed sentences on the dealer concerned and also on six 
Belgian and French experts who had affirmed the authenticity of 
works without adequate examination of the originals. The 
sentences were a salutary warning to even the most highly 
qualified specialists to be careful how they 'guaranteed* pictures 
in future. 

As for the value of other supporting documents and the subtle 
methods by which even genuine, 'official* testimony may be 
rendered deceptive, the story of a Florentine 'Titus' may profitably 
be studied. A well-known dealer in Florence had a painting by 
Rembrandt's son Titus copied on a surface dating from the period. 
The artist's signature was then obliterated with tempera, an 
invented name substituted and the remark added: 'Copy after 
Rembrandt.* The work was insured for six hundred lire and sent 
to New York. At the same time the American Customs authori- 
ties were 'confidentially* informed that a fraudulent Florentine 
dealer, in order to evade the high duty payable on this 'genuine* 
Rembrandt, had painted over the master's signature and marked 
the picture as a copy. When the addressee called for the package, 
he was told by the Customs that the import was not a copy but an 
original painting by Rembrandt. The consignee pretended to be 
thrown into the greatest amazement and even despair by this 
revelation. He was only convinced with difficulty that a 'genuine* 
signature by Rembrandt could be traced underneath the note 



FORGERS, DEALERS, EXPERTS 

that the picture was a copy. But in the end he had to agree to 
pay a fine and the necessary duty, amounting in all to 15,000 
dollars. No one except the few who were in the plot could guess 
that the 'information* supplied had been arranged in advance and 
that the American dealer, in possession of the 'official* Customs 
certificate that the picture was a genuine Rembrandt, would 
subsequently find, with relative ease, a purchaser for the work at 
the price of 80,000 dollars. 

Art forgery is also very often encouraged by the gullibility of 
many buyers and collectors. Jandolo writes : 'A kind of university 
exists for the training of forgers. It is kept going by the stupidity 
of purchasers/ He exposes a number of favourite forgers* tricks, 
guiding the reader to an 'inexhaustible well of Orvieto', where 
works of art are buried at night to be dug up the following 
morning as 'antiques* under the very eyes of the delighted 
collector. Max Friedlander observes: 'The eye sleeps, till the 
mind wakes it with a question. But that question - "Is this work 
old and genuine ?" - does not always arise. It is never put, for 
instance, when a reliable dealer offers an item with all the in- 
fectious confidence afforded by a good conscience and the 
quoting of a high price/ It may well be a fact that most forgeries 
owe their circulation to the ignorance of collectors. Karl Kusen- 
berg has written: 'Every collector who is cheated has only himself 
to blame. Just as opportunity makes a thief, so lack of knowledge 
in the potential purchaser attracts the forger and the dishonest 
dealer. People who don't know much about art should either 
not start a collection or, if they do, shouldn't complain about the 
cost of the lessons it teaches them!' 

Forgery of the titles of pictures, which is much more wide- 
spread than is generally assumed, has also been facilitated by the 
gullibility of amateurs. Although there is here of course no 
question of actual art forgery, an arbitrary title may easily lead 
to a mistaken interpretation of the work. Vollard relates: 'At 
one of my C&zanne exhibitions there was an item depicting 
female nudes in the open air and a figure close by which might 
have been taken for a shepherd from the costume ... the canvas 
was in a frame from which I had forgotten to remove the former 
title, "Diana and Actaeon". The picture's subject was subse- 
quently described in a Press notice as "Diana Bathing". An art 
critic went out of his way to praise the dignified bearing of the 

164 



IN THE SHADOWS 



goddess and the impression of chastity given by the virgins 
surrounding her. He particularly admired the gesture of one of 
those standing in the glade, who was stretching out her arm as if 
to say, "Begone!" He added: "It clearly indicates her anger, as 
a virgin, at being disturbed." One of my customers was greatly 
taken with the painting. He said: "If I hadn't already got a 
remarkably fine 'Diana Bathing* by Tassaert, I should simply have 
to buy that picture of yours." 

'Not long afterwards I was asked for the "Temptation of St 
Anthony", by Cezanne, to show at an exhibition. I promised to 
send the picture, but then found it had already been sold. So I 
despatched, instead, the so-called "Diana and Actaeon". There 
was now no title on the frame. But the gallery was expecting 
the "Temptation of St Anthony" which I had promised and had 
entered that title in its catalogue. One of the newspapers then 
proceeded to discuss the painting as if it were really the "Temp- 
tation". Whereas previously the noble attitude of Diana had 
been praised, the critic now discovered a "slyly beguiling smile" 
in one of the daughters of Satan. The former angrily defensive 
gesture of the aggrieved virgin in question had become a seductive 
challenge and the pseudo-Actaeon appeared as the august figure 
of the saint. On the last day of the exhibition that customer of 
mine who had refused the picture when it was entitled "Diana 
and Actaeon" came up to me, carrying the paper concerned, 
while I was actually talking about the article it contained. "I've 
just bought the Temptation'," he cried, with a triumphant smile. 
"Its realism is positively thrilling!" 

'Next time I saw Cezanne I told him about the various meta- 
morphoses his picture had undergone. He answered: "I wasn't 
thinking of any particular subject at all. I was just trying to 
render certain kinds of movement." * 



165 



CHAPTER 24 



Fame versus X-rays 



THE HISTORY of art forgery proves that many successful forgeries 
are revealed by the forgers themselves. The artists actually 
responsible for the "Venus of Brizet*, Bastianini's bust of Beni- 
vieni, the Tiara of Saitapharnes, the bust of Flora, Dossena's 
works, van Meegeren's 'Vermeers*, Malskat's 'medieval frescoes* 
and Rifesser's statues of saints are known because either the 
creators personally or those in the secret informed the public of 
the truth. 

Countless similar cases, in which forgeries were disclosed 
through self-accusation, have come to light from many periods, 
countries and categories of art. In February 1959, for instance, 
an alleged masterpiece by the great Norwegian painter Edvard 
Munch (1863-1944) was sold to a well-known collector for 
47,000 kronen. A similar picture, 'Road at Sunset', was acquired 
by the Oslo Modern Art Gallery for 17,000 kronen. Connoisseurs 
of Munches work began to doubt the authenticity of these newly- 
discovered paintings. But when an ordinary cabinet-maker 
named Caspar Caspersen declared that he was responsible for 
them, the statement was regarded as a stupid joke. Nevertheless, 
Caspersen, an amateur painter aged fifty-five, who studied Munch's 
work in his spare time and copied his pictures, proved that he 
had the requisite capacity. He complacently produced yet another 
c Munch* in the seclusion of a prison cell. He took less than three 
hours to create a 'Summer Landscape' which looked at the first 
glance like a typical work by the master. The case made a con- 
siderable stir in Norway. The country had apparently been 
spared art forgery hitherto. But now Norwegians began to 
suspect every new painting they saw. 

It seems curious that forgers should cease to keep their activities 

166 



FAME VERSUS X-RAYS 



a secret and thus facilitate exposure of them. Yet they may have 
several different reasons for doing so. The most usual seem to 
be the inability of people to keep quiet for any length of time 
about such accomplishments and their longing to enjoy both 
fame and the discomfiture of the learned world they have de- 
ceived. Jandolo's Reminiscences record a typical remark by the 
potter Casimiro Tomba, who imitated ancient work of this kind 
so exactly that his productions were described as valuable old 
antiques. One day he heard how enraptured the experts had 
been with a certain new 'discovery'. Tomba exclaimed: *I 
simply can't stand listening to any more of the drivel talked about 
the origin of that pot. Even a copyist like myself is only human, 
after all, and has a right to enjoy being famous for once in his 
life/ 

Fame was no doubt the main motive which impelled Lothar 
Malskat of Liibeck to make his sensational disclosures about his 
'medieval* paintings in churches and ultimately to appear in the 
dock. Alceo Dossena was also unquestionably driven to the 
same decisive step of self-accusation by the desire for glory, in 
addition to disappointment at his treatment by fraudulent dealers. 
Cremonese, van Meegeren and Ruchomovsky all sought celebrity 
and recognition. Beppi Rifesser, too, though he took no special 
steps to acquire the fame which his 'medieval wood-carvings* 
brought him, was nevertheless delighted when it came. 

In addition to such confessions, the wariness of dealers and 
experts has also led to the detection of many forgeries. Though 
some dishonest dealers have been primarily responsible for the 
acceptance of forgeries, others engaged in the trade have been 
true friends of art and deserve special mention for the fact. It 
was not only the Wacker and Spitfcweg trials and the scandal of 
the Viennese Madonna which they promoted, leading to the 
revelation of forgery. The dealer Augusto Jandolo, for instance, 
has launched uncompromising attacks on forgery through his 
illuminating researches into the origins and nature of authentic 
and spurious art. He has himself contributed to the unmasking 
of many bogus works. 

An interesting art forgery was once brought to light by August 
and Dominik Artaria, owners of the long established and highly 
respected Viennese firm of that name. On the pedestal of a 
bronze statuette of Goethe which had been offered to them traces 



FORGERS, DEALERS, EXPERTS 

of the initials of the sculptor Fernkorn, together with a date, 
were visible. Monogram, style and technique all suggested that 
the work had been executed by that distinguished artist and 
manager of the Imperial Foundry. His widow confirmed that he 
had been engaged on a statue of Goethe. Consequently, the 
work appeared to be indubitably his. But shortly afterwards, at 
an auction, Dominik Artaria noticed a surprisingly similar 
statuette. The size, initials and date were the same. But the head 
was different. Artaria's enquiries about its history elicited the 
fact that a well-known banker and patron of art, Baron Sina, had 
commissioned a portrait from Fernkorn for distribution to his 
friends. A clever forger had substituted, on one of these figures, 
Goethe's head, copied from one by Rauch, for the Baron's. The 
exposure of this forgery was due to the alert dealer Artaria. 

Scholars have been trying for centuries to find ways and means 
of differentiating the genuine and the spurious in art, so as to 
protect buyers against forgery. The investigation of the history 
of an item has proved one of the most successful of their methods. 
It consists in the attempt to establish the identity of the successive 
owners and locations of a work since its execution; 

But this line of research has been rendered difficult owing to 
the police regulations which permit the owners of articles sold 
at voluntary public auctions to remain anonymous. Forgers try 
to exploit die resultant obscurity of the history of such objects 
by inventing the names of previous owners and as many credible 
details as possible. Experts have to test data of this kind and 
never allow themselves to be led astray by 'possibilities' and 'proba- 
bilities'. If van Meegeren's allegation of the Italian origin of 
the 'Disciples at Emmaus' had been checked as soon as the 
picture appeared, the great scandal that ensued would have been 
avoided. At Otto Wacker's trial his fate was decided by the issue 
of enquiries as to the provenance of the works called in question. 
For he could not produce the 'Russian living in Switzerland* 
to whom he referred. Investigations of the story told by the 
dealers who employed Dossena about the origin of the 'Savelli 
Tomb', led first to suspicion and then to proof of forgery. 
Countless other forgeries have only come to light either because 
no facts about their production could be established or because 
their alleged history was found to be untrue. 
Another decisive factor in the detection of forgeries is afforded 

168 



FAME VERSUS X-RAYS 

by comparing them with similar genuine works. On the appear- 
ance of any newly-discovered item experts look for contemporary 
originals, if possible emanating from the school or group to 
which it belongs. Donath has stated: 'The difference between 
genuine and spurious can only be made clear to the amateur by 
inspection and comparison of pictures, drawings, pottery and 
gkss, in each case by the same artist. The best safeguard for the 
collector is to be tireless in such comparisons and studies of 
works by the same hand/ 

Many forgeries have in fact been detected by comparing them 
with originals, especially where copies, partial forgeries and Tree 
versions* have been concerned. Wacker's Van Goghs*, for 
instance, were exposed as imitations on being confronted with 
works by the master that were known to be genuine. Kiiffiaer's 
copy of a Diirer was identified on the reappearance of the original, 
so that both could be examined together. When Lothar Malskat's 
confessions were not believed, he called attention to the originals 
he had consulted, in order that comparison might substantiate 
his statements and prove his work to have been imitation. 

In the case of drawings comparison with originals is particu- 
larly important. No imitator can ever succeed in making abso- 
lutely precise copies. Even in the most faithful of them individual 
lines do not quite correspond. Sometimes the most minute and 
insignificant details, barely visible to the naked eye and only 
clearly recognisable under powerful magnification, decide the 
question. 

Forgeries can also be detected by comparison with originals 
when only parts have been copied or freely borrowed from the 
models. Furtwangler, for example, proved that the Tiara was 
false by setting it beside known originals of similar type. Van 
Meegeren's Pieter de Hooch forgeries, again, were revealed 
because he had plagiarised figures and subjects from different 
pictures. In the same way a Gauguin forgery was at once identi- 
fied through the awkward conjunction of two Tahitian female 
figures taken from separate original works. Similar instances 
could be quoted in the case of sculpture. Thus, if a forger merely 
changes the head on a standing figure, there is every chance that 
the trick will be exposed. 

Sometimes forgeries are discovered when they are compared 
with models stylistically and technically diverse from them. 

169 



1?ORG6RS, DEALERS, 

This was the case when an 'ancient Pompeian' fountain-relief in 
the National Museum at Naples was found to have been designed 
on the basis of a drawing by Diirer. One of the details of a fresco 
in the Vatican had been incorporated in the 'pre-Christian' 
'Tiara of Saitapharnes'. In both these cases, accordingly, the 
sixteenth century had been an inspiration to 'pre-Christian' 
works. No further evidence was needed to prove the latter 
spurious. 

Comparison of dubious productions with known forgeries 
may also be instructive. This procedure has repeatedly led to the 
detection of fraud. Friedlander writes: 'It is easier to deduce 
from certain indications that a forger known to the examiner has 
been at work than simply to feel convinced that the item cannot 
be genuine/ The forger is in a sense a manufacturer. As a rule 
he produces a number of specimens all alike or somewhat 
similar. When all the 'Vermeers' by van Meegeren are studied 
together a surprising resemblance is found between them. Curt 
Glaser notes, in connection with a work by Dossena in the style 
of Giovanni Pisano, that Very soon doubts arose, which became 
certainties when photographs of a number of pictures clearly 
from the same studio arrived from America, They all imitated 
in similar fashion, though most ingeniously, the styles of different 
periods and artists.' At this time Dossena himself was still un- 
known. Yet many of his works were already suspected to be by 
the same hand and the existence of a studio for the production 
of his forgeries was surmised. 

Five tests of the authenticity or otherwise of an old painting 
are said to be imposed to-day. The first and 'most subtle' is 
described as sensitivity to style. According to Friedlander 'If a 
forgery cannot be distinguished from the real thing technically, 
it will still offend a connoisseur by its lack of stylistic logic. It 
would, for instance, be hopeless to try to produce a "Memling", 
since the mentality of the forger would be so utterly different 
from the honest, impulsive simplicity of the artist in question. 
This diversity is bound to be noticeable, even if the imitator has 
entered thoroughly, by the exercise of exceptional ingenuity and 
intensive application, into the character of his model. The 
difference will be the same as that between forged and authentic 
handwriting. For while the creations of the artist are spontaneous, 
but done of his own free will, those of the forger are arbitrary, 

170 



FAME VERSUS X-RAYS 



subjectively enforced. All forgeries, quite apart from their other 
shortcomings, can be detected by their pedantically anxious 
execution. The forger can never let himself go and follow his 
natural inclinations. He must coldly calculate, painfully pick his 
way and squint in all directions. He can only hope to succeed if 
his copy is exact. Every time he yields to a personal impulse he 
takes a serious risk. If, for example, he takes any liberties with 
costume, it will soon be evident that he knows hardly anything 
about the clothing of bygone days. He may have gathered from 
old pictures what a 1520 hat looked like in outline, but the 
interior, the sewing and the make-up of the article will be un- 
familiar to him. If by some alteration of the angle of the head he 
brings into view some aspect of the hat that differs only slightly 
from that which he has noted in the model, he immediately 
reveals his ignorance of the true facts. For neither he nor we 
know much more about what our ancestors saw than is presented 
to us in the mirror of art.' 

As a rule the forger makes certain mistakes which lead without 
much trouble to his exposure. Experts pay close attention to 
any script on a work of art and apply their understanding of 
costume, heraldry, liturgy and social behaviour. The appearance 
of a turkey in a 'medieval' fresco at Schleswig was enough of 
itself to prove the work a forgery. For the bird was not intro- 
duced into Europe until after the discovery of America. In the 
same way a tobacco-pipe found in 1872 on a site alleged to 
illustrate Moabite culture and situated in front of the walls of 
Jerusalem was obviously spurious. For tobacco, too, was not 
introduced into Europe until after the time of Columbus. 

In the i82o's a bricklayer named Kaufmann found a 'Roman 
kiln* at Rheinzabern. No wonder suspicion was aroused when 
no less than 117 such 'kilns' were subsequently 'discovered*, 
together with their remarkably fine 'products'. Forgery was 
proved when one of the plates was found to depict the emperor 
'Antonosus', wearing a sword of the Holy Roman Empire, and a 
full-bottomed wig, while seated on a horse adorned with ostrich 
feathers and caparison. Even so ingenious a forger as van 
Meegeren occasionally committed anachronisms. In the 'Dis- 
ciples at Emmaus', for example, and other 'Vermeers' the lid of 
a jug is decorated with a double ear of corn. Van Meegeren had 
forgotten that there were no such jugs in the seventeenth century 



FORGERS, DEALERS, EXPERTS 

and that the vessels in use at that time had been accurately 
illustrated by the artist. This detail alone conclusively proved 
forgery. 

The counterfeiter is a child of his time, which dictates his out- 
look. When he attempts to create beauty he falls a victim to the 
prejudices of his day. He sees and depicts ancient art through 
the spectacles of his own period. He does not reproduce the 
work of the old masters but his conception of it as a child of his 
time. This fact suggests a key to the puzzle of his success as a 
forger. There is always something 'modern' about his productions, 
which is overlooked by his contemporaries but clearly perceived 
by a later generation. To-day, for instance, Bastianini's works 
seem typical nineteenth-century sculpture, while van Meegeren's 
'Vermeers* remind us more of the art of the present than of that 
of the seventeenth-century Delft painter. Among experts the 
new science of c pictology' is regarded as specially applicable to 
problems of authenticity in painting. Its object is to ascertain 
from a work, as graphologists do from handwriting, the basic 
psychology of the artist. Certain data thus derived may help 
the 'pictologist* to decide whether the executant was a genuine 
artist or a forger. For the latter never paints impulsively. He 
has assumed a style like a disguise and is afraid of making mistakes 
and being caught out. He is full of inhibitions. His calculations 
lack spontaneity and verve, the expressiveness and conviction 
arising from experience. As a result, his forms are artificial and 
dead. Tictoiogy* has been used by M. van Dantzig of Amsterdam 
as a method of detecting forgery and was exhaustively illustrated 
in the Dutch exhibitions of bogus art. 

Technical investigation is another decisive means of exposing 
forgery. Critics of style may be easily deceived. But the scientist 
is in a position to make the most precise statements concerning 
the nature and age of the materials employed in a work of art. 
Well-known forgeries which passed the test of style criticism 
without arousing suspicion have been exposed by technical 
research. As a consequence, some famous pictures, exhibited for 
decades as the productions of important artists in galleries of 
the highest standing, have had to be acknowledged as copies and 
withdrawn from the collection. 

In 1955 the London National Gallery, after re-examining an 
alleged Francia which had long adorned its walls, decided that 

172 



FAME VERSUS X-RAYS 



the picture was a forgery. Doubts had arisen when an exactly 
similar work appeared. The brush-strokes of the London 
painting were studied under a strong double microscope with a 
view to detecting even the slightest deviation from Francia's 
well-known technique. Specimens of the paint ^tjo" of a milli- 
metre thick were chemically analysed in order to ascertain whether 
they could have been used by a fifteenth-century artist. Infra-red 
and Rontgen-ray photographs of the work in question were 
compared with those of other productions by Francia. On the 
evidence thus obtained the painting was pronounced a forgery. 

In January 195 8 it was announced that a false 'Goya* had been 
discovered in the Old Pinakothek at Munich. It was a portrait 
of the Spanish queen Maria Luisa and had been hanging in the 
gallery ever since 1911. No one doubted that it was genuine. 
The Director of the Museum, who had acquired the picture, 
was a connoisseur of Goya's works and had written a book on 
him. But X-ray examination and chemical analysis proved the 
portrait to be a worthless copy executed in the second half of the 
nineteenth century. 

In July 1959, during the cleaning of the 'Mystic Marriage of 
St Catherine', by Murillo (1618-82), at the Vatican, a landscape 
in seventeenth-century style was found under the painting. 
Chemical tests proved that the landscape in question had been 
exposed to light and air for at least a century before being over- 
painted. The alleged 'Murillo' could not, therefore, have been 
executed, at earliest, prior to the end of the eighteenth century, 
over a hundred years after the death of the Spanish master. The 
work was thus revealed as a forgery. 

To-day the larger galleries have their own kboratories in 
which modern methods, involving ultra-violet, infra-red and 
X-rays, are applied to their paintings. These devices can not 
only be employed in testing the gallery's own possessions, but 
are also available to other collections and to private owners. Such 
laboratories are accordingly of prime importance in disclosing 
counterfeits. They are to be found attached to the Old Pinakothek 
at Munich, the Eijksmuseum at Amsterdam, the London National 
Gallery, the Louvre, the Basle and Lisbon Museums of Art, the 
Brussels Central Laboratory, the Istituto Restauro at Rome and 
other establishments. 
After a picture has been examined for style it is usually sub- 



FORGERS, DEALERS, EXPERTS 

jected to the alcohol test. Essence of alcohol generally dissolves 
recent pigment but as a rule does not affect old paint. This test 
often suffices to prove forgery. But it is not necessarily decisive. 
Old colours are sometimes found to be soluble in alcohol and 
new ones resistant to it. For some counterfeiters apply alcoholic 
hardening agents to their pigments, while certain seventeenth- 
century masters manufactured paints which alcohol dissolves. 
A careless restorer, for example, once applied alcohol to part of 
a supposedly spurious Rembrandt. The passage thus treated was 
ruined. But the picture eventually turned out to be genuine. 

Old paintings were also checked for the presence of white 
lead, which was replaced by zinc white in the eighteenth century. 
There are several ways in which white lead can be detected. It 
dissolves when sprinkled with nitric acid. Hydrogen sulphide 
turns it black. Heating gives it a yellow tinge. Under illumina- 
tion by the quartz tube lamp it appears brown. If the white of a 
picture does not react to any of these treatments, it must have 
been painted after the eighteenth century. Yet the presence of 
white lead does not conclusively prove the painting to be older. 
For the modern forger, just like the old masters, makes use of 
the 'genuine* white lead, which he obtains by laying a sheet of 
lead over a vessel containing vinegar and rendered airtight. The 
poisonous white pigment then forms as an even deposit over the 
lead. 

X-rays are sometimes decisive. They reveal otherwise invisible 
layers of paint, exposing secondary coatings and supplementary 
colour. Luminescent photographs taken by ultra-violet light and 
quartz tube lamps show up all the retouching in a picture, while 
infra-red prints disclose the various stages of its construction. 
Many forgeries and overpaintings have been detected by X-rays, 
which have also sometimes proved a work to be original. When, 
for instance, an alleged 'Rembrandt' was found to have been 
superimposed on a portrait of the last Italian king but one, 
Victor Emmanuel, all doubts were at an end. Again, a 'self- 
portrait by Leonardo da Vinci', mentioned in the literature on 
that artist, had figured in the catalogue of the Uffizi Gallery at 
Florence ever since 1753. In the 1940*8 the panel, of thin oak, 
was subjected to X-rays. A Baroque 'Repentant Magdalen' came 
to light underneath the portrait, which was accordingly proved 
a forgery. 

*74 



FAME VERSUS X-RATS 

When van Meegeren's statement that he had painted the 
"Disciples at Emmaus' was not believed and the work continued 
to be attributed to Vermeer himself, he added that in executing 
this work he had overpainted the head of a child. An X-ray 
photograph revealed the head in question and consequently the 
truth of the forger's confession. 

It is not only such tell-tale overpaintings which are disclosed 
by the Rontgen print. Counterfeiting is also proved in this way 
by the exposure, which is never traced in copies or forgeries, of 
every stage in the construction of an original work. The imitator 
starts with 'preconceived notions of form' taken from the super- 
ficial aspect of his model and therefore proceeds in a direction 
contrary to that followed by the original artist. In these circum- 
stances, changes of mind are naturally rare and, when they do 
occur, merely corrective. 

Forgery in the form of overpainting an original was revealed 
by Rontgen rays in July 1959 at the Ordrupgaard Museum in 
Copenhagen. One of the items, an Italian Girl' bearing the 
signature of Camille Corot, proved to be a garish rendering of 
the delicately toned original beneath it, which was perfectly 
genuine. 

The fact that authenticity can be established by X-ray photo- 
graphy beyond the possibility of doubt is illustrated by the tests 
applied to Giorgione's 'Venus' in the Dresden Gallery. 

The originality of this work had long been seriously queried. 
The figure of a small cupid, mentioned by old writers as included 
in it, did not appear. The picture had been exhibited as 'Venus 
and Cupid' on its acquisition in 1699 by Augustus the Strong* 
Afterwards it was supposed to have been lost. But it turned up 
again in 1763 as a 'damaged copy after Titian'. Later it was 
described as an original painting by Giorgione (1478-1510). 

It seemed clear that the work was not that acquired by Augustus 
in 1699. But Rontgen rays showed that a figure of Cupid had 
been painted out. The picture proved to be in other respects 
authentic. 

In certain extremely small details revealed by the microscope 
the characteristic palette, brush-strokes and 'personal style' of a 
painter become evident. Such signs of dilapidation as cracks and 
worm-holes indicate differences between old and new, genuine 
and spurious work. In wooden figures the direction taken by 



FORGERS, DEALERS, EXPERTS 

the worm-holes will be significant. Again, if such holes are filled 
in with paint or even only partially covered up, the fact bears 
witness to a later application of colour and consequently to 
forgery. There is a difference, moreover, between natural and 
artificially drawn cracks. The former penetrate the preliminary 
drawing on the canvas, while the latter only go as deep as the 
paintlayer. Cracks which have been deliberately scratched in can 
be recognised as a rule by their straight direction and smooth 
edges. Some of the smaller artificial fissuring is put in with dark 
varnish. But the connoisseur knows that genuine old cracks may 
be caused in all sorts of ways and therefore differ in appearance. 

'Premature splitting* usually arises from chemico-physical 
tensions in the drying of separate layers of paint. Such divisions 
follow the direction of the brush-stroke and form 'grated fissur- 
ing* when combined with kter transverse cracks. 'Age-splits* 
occur, after the paint has fully dried out, as the result of in- 
equalities between the respective expansion coefficients of the 
supporting surface and its coating of paint. There are differences 
in such 'splits' according to their production in wood, canvas or 
the underlying size (isolating agent) applied to the picture area. 
The variations in question are often overlooked by the forger and 
lead to his undoing. 

The components of colours are subjected to very close chemical 
analysis. Spectroscopy reveals the combinations involved. The 
fineness of die granulation is tested. Ancient hand-ground colours 
are decidedly coarse-grained as compared with modern industrial 
products. Both physical and chemical methods of examination 
are used. Works of art can therefore now be tested in a great 
variety of ways. Even the 'perfect* forgery would be exposed by 
them. 

These manifold technical expedients often upset erroneous 
judgments based on style. For example, in 1926 Hofstede de 
Groot guaranteed the famous 'Laughing Cavalier* as the authentic 
work of Frans Hals (1580-1666). As such the painting was sold 
for 50,000 gulden. But certain doubts having arisen, it was 
subjected to a number of technical tests. Microscopic examination 
revealed the presence of sine white, first generally employed 
after 1780, and also modern ultramarine and cobalt, which have 
only been known since the 18205. X-rays also disclosed, under 
the paint, nails of the wire type, equally a nineteenth-century in- 

176 



FAME VERSUS X-RAYS 

vention. The picture was accordingly proved to be a recent for- 
gery in the manner of Hals. 

In sculpture, too, the investigation of materials, in addition to 
the criterion of style, is of decisive importance in detecting 
counterfeits. It was not only the Glozel finds and the 'Cardiff 
Giant* which were exposed in this way. In the case of statues 
different kinds of test are also employed in combination. In 1953, 
for example, the bust of a Caesar at the British Museum was 
found to be a forgery. It was one of the most famous pieces on 
exhibition. For over a hundred years it had been admired as a 
masterpiece of antique art and an authentic portrait. But it is 
now known to date only from the beginning of the nineteenth 
century. Clear traces of the use of instruments which did not 
exist in antiquity were found in the marble. The modern Roman 
copyist has never been identified. He evidently modelled his 
work on the large statue of a Caesar in martial attire on the 
Capitol at Rome, the overlifesize head of an emperor in the 
Farnese collection and a bust acquired in 1771 by Pope Clement 
XIV for the Vatican collection of antiques. 

But it is the typically 'classical* style of the London bust which 
most clearly reveals its origin. Furtwangler's unerring instinct 
for authenticity has often been proved. It was he who first 
recognised that the 'Tiara* was a forgery. And fifty years ago he 
had expressed doubts of the genuine character of the supposedly 
'antique' bust at the Museum, now acknowledged to be a com- 
paratively recent work. 

The history of the exposure of forged works of art does not 
imply that many imitations are not still to be found in well- 
known collections and that questions of authenticity do not 
remain, in some cases, unsettled to this day, Furtwangler has 
written: 'Problems of authenticity, even more than others in- 
volving aesthetic judgment, demand for their solution such a vast 
quantity of complex experience in this field that as a rule they 
defy verbal exposition/ But a knowledge of how forgeries arise 
is of assistance in their detection. It is therefore important for 
every expert, collector and patron of the arts to study the history 
of this kind of fraud. 



177 



CHAPTER 25 



'Counterfeit Counterfeits* 



JUST AS MANY forgeries are to be found among alleged originals, 
so alleged forgeries may sometimes be originals. The latter 
category includes not only works the authenticity of which is 
still in dispute, so that attributions are unreliable, but also 
productions specified in quite unmistakable terms as imitative and 
spurious. More of these are originals than is generally supposed. 

In 1957 a Bochum labourer acquired, at an auction held by the 
municipal lost property office, a valuable ornament for which he 
only paid a few marks. Brilliants were identified by a jeweller 
among its glass components. The municipal authorities com- 
mented: *The article was so dirty that we really thought it was 
nickel, especially as it bore no markings/ There must un- 
doubtedly be many similar cases of paintings and statues which, 
because they are unsigned and in bad condition, are regarded as 
shams and sold off cheaply. 

Such works do not by any means lose their original character 
in consequence of later alterations or overpainting. Even 
important artists of high reputation are known to have produced 
poor- work, afterwards intelligibly enough dismissed by con- 
noisseurs as spurious. The painter Max Liebermann referred to 
this fact when he observed, with the typical ready wit of a Ber- 
liner : 'Art historians are not so superfluous after all. If they didn't 
exist, who would there be to explain, when we are dead, that our 
bad pictures are forgeries ?' No doubt many original works are 
described, in the process of research, as studio productions and 
imitations. It was not only Maurice Utrillo who found that 
genuine works of his own were being declined as counterfeits. 
On the other hand, counterfeits themselves are frequently 
declared to be 'absolutely genuine*. 



'COUNTERFEIT COUNTERFEITS* 

Artists have also often been unable to distinguish between their 
own work and imitations of it, sometimes designating originals 
of their own, at a later date, as forgeries. Goethe confessed that 
his own writings subsequently seemed 'quite foreign* to him. 
He declared that it was not until some time after reading a French 
text that he realised it was a translation of a composition of his 
own. When Bernard Shaw sent the National Library of Ireland 
his 'Unfinished Novel' he wrote in his accompanying letter: *I 
haven't the slightest recollection of this piece. I should deny its 
existence if it weren't lying here before me.* Rodin once described 
a bronze with his name on it as a forgery. But it turned out in 
the course of legal proceedings that the work was really a youthful 
production which he had forgotten. 

On the other hand there have been cases in which artists 
deliberately repudiated their own compositions and thereby 
fraudulently represented them to be fraudulent. Jose Sherdiff, 
for instance, writes in his life of Jane Avril that Renoir once 
painted a portrait of the actress which he did not like. Someone 
wanted to buy it for her. But Renoir would only sell the picture 
if he did not have to sign it. The portrait afterwards came into 
the possession of a young man who was intimate with Jane. 
According to Renoir this young man brought him the picture 
and said that Jane wanted him to sign it. But Renoir told the 
actress : 'I'm sure the young rascal never asked your permission 
to bring me that rubbish. So I sent him off with a flea in his ear. 
You don't think that thing is by me, do you? Good heavens, I 
never heard of such nonsense!' 

A similar case, concerning Giorgio de Chirico, is probably 
unique. The pictor optimus y as he not over-modestly styled 
himself, had made a new start about the year 1930. He then 
disowned his former friends and pictures, declaring the latter to 
be forgeries. But in so doing he fell foul of the law. In 1947 the 
dealer Dario Sabatello showed de Chirico a painting executed in 
1913, representing a typical Italian piazza. As the work was 
destined for an American collection in Los Angeles, the dealer 
wanted de Chirico to confirm that he was responsible for it. But 
the artist refused, asserting that the work was a forgery. He 
demanded that it should be 'confiscated' and burnt. The dealer 
asked the Courts to decide whether or not the picture was 
genuine. If it proved to be de Chirico's he intended to prosecute 



FORGERS, DEALERS, EXPERTS 

the artist and, if not, the former owner of the work, who had sold 
it to him. Meanwhile, the painting was deposited with a solicitor. 
The matter aroused great interest even beyond professional 
circles, for it was remembered that the painter had previously 
informed Katherine Dunham, the dancer, that one of his own 
works, in 'metaphysical' style, was a forgery. 

The Roman legal authorities began by tracing the history of 
the work in the art market. Sabatello had acquired it from the 
brothers Ghiringhelli, owners of a Milan gallery. They in turn 
had bought it, in 1943, from the widow of a Milanese barrister. 
He had received it some years before from a Genoese engineer, 
who had it from de Chkico himself in 1933. The explicit state- 
ments of the Genoese collector drove the artist into a corner. 
He retorted that the picture was not a 'real forgery* but simply 
a copy of one of his own works. Against this argument it was 
proved that de Chkico had repeatedly seen this alleged 'copy* in 
the Milan barrister's house and had never suggested that it was 
not authentic. 

The first owner of the painting, however, provided incontest- 
able evidence that it was genuine in the shape of a photograph 
which showed, under a magnifying-glass, exactly the same type 
of weaving in the canvas, with its manifold 'knots', and the same 
consistency of brushwork. No copyist, not even the creator of 
the original, could have reproduced these features. The com- 
mittee of experts appointed by the Court therefore reached the 
conclusion that the picture in question must be authentic. De 
Chkico was accordingly fined 330,000 lire for repudiation of one 
of his own productions. He paid the fine. But he continued 
steadfastly to deny that he had executed the painting. 

De Chkico's attitude gave rise subsequently to a great many 
disputes about the authenticity of his works. In 1956 the Muni- 
cipal Gallery of Milan withdrew all his pictures from their 
exhibitions, pending personal recognition of their genuine 
character by the artist. This step was taken after a Milan Court 
had decided that a signed painting declared by de Chirico to be 
a forgery must be removed from an exhibition in the city. This 
work, entitled 'Les Fils d'Hebdoomeros', had been bought by 
the municipality after being certified as genuine by a committee 
of artists and critics. A year previously de Chirico had denied 
any connection with his picture called 'Composition*, which also 

1 80 



'COUNTERFEIT COUNTERFEITS' 

bore his signature and had been exhibited for five years at the 
French National Gallery of Modern Art. The establishment had 
complied with the artist's demand that this 'forgery* should be 
withdrawn. In so doing, however, the gallery drew special 
attention to the fact that the painter made a habit of declining to 
recognise his early works and repudiating all responsibility for 
them. 



181 



CHAPTER 26 



The Campaign against Fraud 



MEASURES HAVE BEEN taken to suppress art forgery ever since it 
began. As soon as imitations started appearing collectors and 
scholars united in efforts to counteract and eliminate them. 
Eudel-Roessler was justified in exclaiming: "Forgery is always a 
crime and it is the duty of humanity to expose the criminal.* 
Various methods were employed to *nip in the bud* such attempts 
at fraud, to hinder their multiplication and unmask any "success* 
they might have. 

An early instance of this sort of action is recorded to have 
taken place in the time of Charlemagne. An ecclesiastical digni- 
tary at the imperial Court had a blind passion for collecting. At 
the emperor's suggestion a Jewish pedlar offered the cleric a 
dead mouse, wrapped in costly silks, as a 'precious, unknown 
work of art from Palestine*. The amateur in question had no 
means of deciding the value of the object. But he began by 
offering three pounds of silver for it and eventually a whole 
bushel. When the emperor heard of the transaction he explained 
the matter in public, sternly rebuking the greed of collectors. 
Subsequent centuries have been characterised by similar examples 
of fraud initiated simply to teach indiscriminate purchasers a 
painful lesson and thus provide effective means of combating the 
heedless extravagance of collectors. 

A number of artists whose works were forged in their lifetime 
have themselves taken part in the struggle against this type of 
fraud, by drawing up lists of their original works in order to 
exclude the possibility of imitation. Claude, as is well known, 
entered in his *Book of Truth* sketches of his paintings and 
notes of their locations. Scholars have also issued catalogues of 
the genuine productions of famous artists. But the case of 

182 



THE CAMPAIGN AGAINST FRAUD 

Wacker's Van Goghs* and de la Faille's hesitations in that affair 
prove that such records are of little use in exposing and suppress- 
ing forgery. Similar instances of the inclusion of both genuine 
and spurious works in registers of this sort are not confined to 
the exhaustive lists published of pictures by Hodler and Daumier. 

When Utrillo told a lawyer that he could see no way of safe- 
guarding his productions against fraudulent imitation, the artist 
was advised to leave a fingerprint on his paintings in future. The 
practical advantage of this expedient has often been discussed. 
There are still painters who resort to this unusual form of 
signature. Yet even in such cases forgery cannot be ruled out. 
Expert research, moreover, would be complicated by the need 
for consulting a whole series of the finger-prints of well-known 
artists. 

Toulouse-Lautrec, in order to forestall imitations of his 
lithographs, was in the habit of affixing to each print of a small 
edition a barely visible symbol in addition to his signature. It 
is said to have been a dot or line, generally placed in shadow and 
consequently only just perceptible. No doubt he himself could 
thus identify his original works. But as he kept this practice 
secret, the symbols are unfamiliar to investigators and have no 
significance for posterity. Even if they were published they 
would also be made available to forgers and so rendered useless 
as a protective device. 

Artists have repeatedly sought to restrain forgers by putting 
them in the dock. Both Diirer (1471-1528) and his widow com- 
plained of fraudulent imitation of his pictures. But at that time 
there was little they could do against such practices. A legal 
hold over art forgery, however, was established in the nineteenth 
century by designating it a violation of 'good faith in business*. 

In the Courts the chief object of the artist concerned was the 
destruction of the forged work. In 1908 Monet wrote to the 
dealer Durand-Ruel regarding two 'dreadful daubs': *I assure 
you that if you had not begged me to send them back to you still 
bearing my signature I should have cut them to bits, as I had a 
perfect right to do. I must insist that, after the action which 
your client has been obliged to bring and after the forger has 
been sentenced, both pictures be either destroyed in the presence 
of witnesses or returned to me/ In 19 j 8 Gromaire described how 
he dealt with forgeries of his work: 'As soon as I see one I 

183 



FORGERS, DEALERS, EXPERTS 

systematically demolish it and would do the same to any others 
I might come across.' Other painters and sculptors have been 
equally emphatic on the subject. 

Dealers are also much concerned to distinguish between the 
genuine and the spurious item and to destroy the latter before it 
can do harm. Paul Petrides, for example, named about a thousand 
bogus 'Utrillos* in his 1959 catalogue. The police at once 
confiscated eighty and burnt them in public. 

In modern times the law constitutes the main weapon against 
art forgery. The more serious cases of fraud, such as those of 
Otto Wacker, Han van Meegeren, Lothar Malskat and Dietrich 
Fey, ended with Court proceedings and sentences of imprison- 
ment. Punishment, however, rarely fits the crime. A year's 
incarceration, for instance, seems a very light penalty for van 
Meegeren's offences. In 1957 an art periodical in France con- 
mented: *A whole arsenal of laws has been erected against art 
forgery. But it is ineffectual/ 

In fact it appears that public enlightenment is more important 
and effective than any law. Books and magazines, lectures and 
exhibitions, afford an opportunity to the public, especially the 
learned world, to become acquainted with the tricks of the 
dishonest. It is true that such expositions may help the forger 
as well as the investigator. But the former is bound to recognise 
that his secrets and capabilities are being progressively laid bare 
in this way and that it is also teaching all those interested in art 
new and valuable lessons. 

After the Dossena case came to light exhibitions of forged 
works were held and books, magazine articles and films dealing 
with the subject in general were produced. The van Meegeren 
trial led, after 1945, to further useful measures being taken, first 
of all in Holland, but eventually as far afield as America, for the 
encouragement of active opposition to the practice of forgery. 
In many cities institutes were founded, in association with 
museums, for the testing of works of art. France was especially 
to the fore in this connection. A separate division of the French 
police, with a staff of experts attached to it, deals with all sus- 
pected cases. Steps are taken, by means of publications and 
exhibitions, to prevent criminal activities in this connection, 
clarify the definitions of the genuine and the spurious and 
promote the idea that art forgery has no future. It would appear 

184 



THE CAMPAIGN AGAINST FRAUD 

highly desirable for other countries to initiate equally energetic 
action against the international operations of the art forgers. 

The eminent criminal lawyer Thomas Wiirtenberger wrote in 
his Measures against Art Forgery in German and Swiss Criminal Law : 
'All persons active in the artistic field should be educated and 
trained to recognise at all times and carefully study, conscious of 
the high responsibility they bear, the ethical aspects of art, such 
as its truth and dignity, original inspiration and genuine character. 
However continuous the toil and frequent the setbacks that may 
accompany thek efforts in this direction, they must be renewed 
again and again if the world of art is ever really to recover its 
health and the flood of forgeries permanently checked/ 



CHAPTER 27 



Forgery Detection as a Fashionable Complaint 



IT is NOT ONLY dealers and experts who suffer from the prevalence 
of forgery and the frequent exposures of it. Public recognition 
of the existence of distorted works of art leads only too easily to 
a distorted view of art in general. People no longer dare to give 
themselves up to unqualified admiration of it. They stare with 
gloomy and anxious suspicion at the items exhibited, trying in 
each case to trace evidence of fraud. Donath mentions the 
common phenomenon of a *nose for forgery'. Wilhelm Bode 
observes that it was positively a "fashionable complaint', spread- 
ing like an epidemic throughout artistic society, especially after 
any sensational revelations of imposture in this connection. This 
unhealthy state of affairs might well be called "forgeritis*. 

Characteristic signs of the propagation of this 'disease* were 
noticeable at the time when the whole world was shocked by the 
discovery of Bastianini's works, followed by the identification of 
forgeries in a number of different galleries. Those affected by the 
malady in question sometimes attempted to elicit the respect and 
wonder of their fellow-citizens by making resounding accusations. 
C I have a charge to lay before the civilised world and will if 
necessary take it further, to the judgment of the learned . . .* 
begins Professor Theodor Levin in an article of 1886 which 
maintained that out of the 141 Dutch paintings noted as "auth- 
entic* in the catalogue of the Stadel Institute at Frankfurt no 
fewer than 5 8 were forgeries. Statements of this sort gave rise 
to further investigations and doubts, which went so far as to 
query the existence of certain artists themselves. In 1891 a book 
was published by Max Lautner entitled Who Was Rembrandt? It 
was declared therein that the great artist in question, the very 
epitome of Dutch painting, was in reality an insignificant dauber 

186 



FORGERY DETECTION AS A FASHIONABLE COMPLAINT 

whose alleged works were executed by Ferdinand Bol and 
consequently forgeries. In 1909 'forgeritis' was particularly rife 
in Italy and Germany as a result of the Berlin dispute over the 
bust of Flora. The Italian professor A. Venturi, after making a 
bad mistake in identifying as genuine a forged Madonna at the 
Uffizi Gallery in the style of Jacopo Bellini, proceeded, in his 
Storia delFarte Italiana, to cast doubts on the authenticity of 
practically every Italian carving of the Quattrocento on show in 
the galleries of Paris, London and Berlin. In Germany, about the 
same time, considerable excitement was caused by suggestions 
that certain pictures of the former Cologne School, particularly 
the altarpiece of St Clara in the cathedral and the 'Madonna of 
the Vetch* at the Wallraf-Richartz Museum, were forged. In 
the case of the latter painting proved restorations by the Belgian 
Anton Laurent and the rapid widening of a crack in the panel 
convinced the restorer Fridt of Cologne and Poppelreuter, 
Director of the Museum, that the work was not genuine. They 
believed it to have been executed in the nineteenth century. 
Well-known connoisseurs like Karl Voll agreed 'both on technical 
and stylistic grounds and from the standpoints of both aesthetics 
and art history'. Wilhelm Bode was the most eminent of those 
who emphatically repudiated this view. He declared that 'the 
present age has an excessive appetite for scandal and sensational 
novelty. Its greed has unfortunately affected even scholars. They 
are much fonder to-day of demolition than construction. It is 
easy, by sowing suspicion, to display one's erudition and appear 
before the public as a noble champion of morals and scientific 
method/ He drew attention to the signs of fifteenth-century 
work and the characteristic beauties of the old School of Cologne. 
The history of the disputed paintings was then investigated and 
they were proved to be genuine. Botanists, however, demon- 
strated that the usual title given to this small triptych was errone- 
ous. It should be called the 'Madonna of the Garden-pea' or 
'Peaflower'. A fresh impulse was imparted to 'forgeritis' by the 
Dossena and van Gogh affairs. Confused notions of authenticity 
and spuriousness, old and new, were applied even to the most 
famous and important works of art. In 1927, for example, it was 
rumoured in Paris that the 'Mona Lisa' restored to the Louvre 
after the theft of that picture was not the original production by 
Leonardo da Vinci, but a forgery. A newspaper reporter swore 

187 



FORGERS, DEALERS, EXPERTS 

he had seen the original in a cellar in the Place Vendome. Prob- 
ably this excitable journalist had been infected with 'forgeritis*, 
had caught sight of one of the many faithful copies of the painting 
and been so intoxicated by his discovery that he had invented the 
fairytale of a 'forgery at the Louvre'. 

During this same period, while the most popular picture in 
France was being disparaged, attempts were made in Germany to 
deprive Raphael's Sistine Madonna, 'the finest painting in the 
world', of its glory. On this occasion no supposed 'original in 
Switzerland* was invoked as a rival to the Dresden work. The 
latter itself was 'exposed' by one Shibel as a mere copy, consisting 
of later additions and overpaintings. 

The ravages of 'forgeritis' again caused the very existence of 
certain artists to be called in question. The most fantastic state- 
ments were made in all seriousness and 'supported' by printed 
arguments. Rembrandt, it was asserted, had never lived. He 
was an invented character. So all the works ascribed to him were 
forgeries. It was also denied that Frans Hals had executed the 
pictures attributed to him. A mysterious 'Judith Leyster', who 
lived about 1640, was responsible for them. Such pronounce- 
ments were almost at once given wide publicity and enthusi- 
astically taken up by many persons avid for 'sensation*. 

The van Meegeren and Malskat scandals caused 'forgeritis' to 
break out again after the last war. The fever, starting in Holland 
and Germany, infected all Europe and reached America. The 
Dutch newspaper De Maasbode ended an account of the forger of 
'Vermeers' with the typical remark that it was 'impossible nowa- 
days to trust anything or anybody'. At Museums and exhibitions 
all over the world doubts were expressed of the authenticity of 
the works displayed. Formal investigations were set on foot, 
Not only Dutch painting but the whole art of the West began to 
be queried. Italian masterpieces like the Mona Lisa and the 
Sistine Madonna were once more affirmed to be forgeries. An 
American professor of art proclaimed that the original of the 
Mona Lisa had been in the possession of a New Hampshire 
family ever since 1797 and that the Louvre picture could only 
therefore be a forged copy. The unreliability of the judgment of 
scholars in these matters figured as the subject of books and 
plays. Irresponsible writers used their 'professional freedom' to 
give currency to absurd declarations, meekly accepted by those 

188 



FORGERY DETECTION AS A FASHIONABLE COMPLAINT 

who knew no better. In 1953, for example, a broadcaster in a 
sound radio programme announced: 'I painted the Mona Lisa!* 
And on a similar occasion listeners were informed: 'Robert 
Guiscard is the greatest art forger of all time. No one knows 
how many works are by his hand. He never tells . .* 

Raphael's Sistine Madonna was again in the news in West 
Germany when the Soviet Union restored the Dresden painting 
to the East Zone. Doubts of its authenticity were repeatedly 
expressed by periodicals. It was firmly believed by very many 
people that the Russians had only returned a copy, a forgery. It 
was not until such eminent experts as Professor Justi, Director 
of the Berlin Kaiser Friedrich Museum, uncompromisingly 
testified that forgery was 'out of the question' that the rumours 
to the contrary were silenced. 

Artists themselves were again proclaimed to have been 'forged*. 
The Belgian specialist R. Druwe considered, after twelve years* 
research, that he had 'proved' Rubens to have never been a 
painter but simply a diplomat and spy in the service of Spain. 
It had only been to camouflage these dangerous activities that 
the pictures of his supposed teacher, Adam van Noort, had been 
fathered upon him. This view is reminiscent of that of the 
American connoisseur, Charles Roger Bordley, who ascribed 
Rubens's works to his studio manager Frans Snyders. 

Revektions have become very fashionable. Historical charac- 
ters who have figured prominently for decades and centuries in 
books on art must now submit to being 'unmasked'. But whether 
justifiably or not is another matter. The considerable danger that 
historical truth may be distorted by Torgeritis* has been strikingly 
indicated by Max Friedlander. He writes : 'He who denies not 
only thinks himself, but also probably appears to others, superior 
to him who affirms. Consequently, ambitious persons will always 
feel the longing to attack the authenticity of genuine works in 
order to win the approval of the maliciously minded. Those who 
affirm have done more harm, but also more good, than those 
persist in denying. For the latter can never be trusted if they 
have never been known to affirm.' 



189 



CHAPTER 28 



'Take up the Shield of Mistrust!' 



c SiNCE ALMOST ANYTHING can be adulterated and falsified, there 
seems little one can do about it. But to give up the struggle 
would be equivalent to not stirring for fear of being caught in a 
trap. So all that can be done is to study the question/ Eudel- 
Roessler, in his well-known book on forgery, adds a clarion call 
to collectors. 

*Be incredulous, take up the shield of mistrust, don't yield to 
first impressions, curb your extravagant instincts, give yourself 
time to think, examine everything strictly, without prejudice, 
always take care you are not cast for the part of the dupe in the 
farce . . . don't buy anything without a clear guarantee in writing 
. . . but above all you must be continually seeing and handling 
items yourself . . , an ounce of practice is worth a pound of theory 
in this matter as in others ... if you are a dealer, it is not enough, 
for the intelligent conduct of your business, to pay good prices, 
to be amiable and accommodating, have a good eye for profit 
and a fine showroom. You need not only commercial ability and 
an interest in art to form a good collection, but also knowledge. 
So you must study . . / 

Buyers of works of art can never be warned too often or too 
emphatically to be cautious in all their purchases. They should 
never be in a hurry. They should always reflect upon and discuss 
their plans. The best training is to visit museums and be con- 
stantly in touch with original works, so as to develop intuitive 
discrimination between the genuine and the spurious. 

The advice of connoisseurs should also be taken and always 
sought when making a purchase. 

A remarkably accurate answer to the question how to protect 
oneself against forgeries is given by Gustav Pauli. He observes: 

190 



'TAKE UP THE SHIELD OF MISTRUST!* 

'There is only one infallible method. Buy the works of young, 
gifted artists who have not yet made a name for themselves.' 

The Director of the Hamburg Art Gallery has also urged that 
it is a mistake to concentrate upon famous names and periods, 
much in demand and consequently subject to forgery. He 
recommends that a buyer should have the courage of his own 
convictions in the choice of unknown but attractive new produc- 
tions. Good and indubitably genuine art can still be picked up 
at reasonable prices to-day. Duly qualified experts and dealers 
have acquired works by subsequently famous artists at a time 
when no one either wanted or imitated them. 



191 



Index 



Aachen cathedral, 143-4 

Aegina, temple at, 153 

Agoracritus, xiii, 155 

Alcohol test, 174 

Algarotti, Count Francesco, 24 

Altdorfer, Albrecht, 22 

Aly Khan, 155 

Amsterdam: Municipal Gallery, 78; 
Rijksmuseum, 100, 173 

anachronisms, 171 

Anthony the Good of Lorraine, 
portrait of, 25 

Anthropology, International Insti- 
tute for, 9 

Antonio, Marc, 14-15 

Apelles, xiii 

Artaria, August and Dominik, 167-8 

Audollent, 9 

Auer, Josef, 126-9, 131-2, 157 

Augustus III of Saxony, 24 

Aumale, Due d*, 27 

Avril, Jane, 179 

Babylon, xiii 

Banti, 31 

Barlach, 108 

Barnum, P. T., 5, 43 

Bartolini, 32 

Basildon Park collection, 59 

Basle, Museum of Art, 173 

Bastlanini, Giovanni, xiv, 28-35, 56, 

69, 152, 172, 186 
Bavaria, Elector of, 19 
Bayle, Edmond, 9-11 
Bellini, Jacopo, 187 



Benevieni, bust of, xiv, 26-35, 155 

Benndorf, 38 

Beringer, J. B., Fossils found at 

Wur^burg, 143 
Berlin: Hall of Art, 67; Kaiser 

Friedrich Museum, 21, 50, 51, 53, 

56, 57, 59, 67, 1 08, 189; National 

Gallery, 71 

Bernard, Madeleine, 156 
Bernath, History of Fresco Painting, 

108 

Bliicher, Marshal, portrait of, 93, 159 
Blum, Hans, 160 
Blum, Friedrich, 93 
Bode, Wilhelm, 50-56, 58-59, 140, 

152, 161, 186, 187 
Bohrmann, 38 
Bol, Ferdinand, 147, 187 
Bonafede, 49 

Bonaiuti, Giuseppe, 28, 34 
Bonnard, 87 

Bordley, Charles Rogers, 147-8, 189 
Boucher, 81, 158 
Bourdon, Sebastian, 80-8 1 
Bouts, 151 
Bouvy, Eugene, 84 
Brandenburg, Elector of, 148 
Brant, Sebastian, Ship of Foots, 14 
Braque, Georges, 83 
Bredius, Abraham, 97, 99, 1 6 1, 162-3 
Bremmer, H. B., 74, 75, 77 
Brescia, Giovanni Antonio da, 1 5 
Brizet, Venus of, 12-13, I 4 I 
brush-work, 74, 76, 173 
Brussels, Central Laboratory, 173 



193 



INDEX 



Buchanan, W., 51, 54, 59 
Buchner, Bruno, 38 
Burckhardt, Edward, 5 
Burlington Magazine, 5 1 

Caesar, bust of, 177 

Cairo Museum, i 

Calamis, xlii 

Campendonck, Oskar, 117 

Canaletto, 142 

Canova, 159 

Capponi, Vincenzo, 31 

Cardiff Giant, 4-6, 177 

Carlton, Sir Dudley, 147 

Caroto, 22 

carpets, 137-9 

Carrit, David, 22 

Carthage, 124 

Caspersen, Caspar, 166 

Cassirer, Paul, 73, 83 

Cazot, Paul, 84 

Cellini, 27 

certificates, 74, 162, 163 

Cerveteri, sarcophagus of, 36-37 

Cezanne, 86, 164-5 

Chagall, Marc, 88, 89, 108, 157 

Charlemagne: court of, 182; tomb 

of, 143-4 
Charvet, J., 29 
Chaumie, 43 
chemical tests, 74-5, 173 
Chester-Dale collection, 72 
Chiringhelli brothers, 180 
chlorophyll, 10 
Chronique des Arts, 28 
Cicerone, 52, 55 
Claude Lorraine, 80, 81, 182 
Clermont-Ganneau, 43 
Cleveland Museum, 67 
Clyde, bust of, 58-59 
Cologne: Art Club, 116, 117; 

cathedral, 100, 187; Wallraf- 

Richartz Museum, 187 
comparison with originals, 169 
Constantine, Victory of, 46 
Cooksey, Charles F., 51, 52, 55 
Copenhagen : Ordrupgaard Museum, 



Coquiot, 78 

Coremans, Professor, 103-4 

Corot, Camille, 71, 81-84, 87, 155, 

175 

Corroyer, 39 
Costa, 31 

Courbet, Gustave, 84 
cracks in paintings, 175-6, 187 
Cracow, 40 

Cranach, Lukas, the Elder, 15, 25 
Credi, Lorenzo di, 27 
Cremonese, Francesco, 12, 13, 141, 

167 

Crepaz, Jakob, 130 
Curjel, 21 
Curlis, Hans, 22, 65, 67-69 

damage, 159 

dates, falsification of, 149, 159 

Daumier, Honore, 60, 84, 183 

Death of the Virgin, Master of, 1 5 

de Chirico, Giorgio, 179-81 

Decoen, J., 103 

Degas, Edgar, 60, 108, 153 

Delfino family, 24 

Delogu, Giuseppe, 32 

Del Sarto, Andrea, 146 

Denis, Maurice, 156 

Dpret, 9 

Dira Abu'n-Naga, forgers of, i 

Donatello, 27, 35, 63, 68 

Donath, 169, 186 

Dossena, Alceo, xiv, 61-70, 98, 141, 
145, 152, 162, 167, 168, 170, 184, 
187; see Savelli tomb 

Dossena, Teresina, 64 

Dou, Gerard, 147 

Dresden Gallery, 24, 175 

Druwe, R., 189 

Dubois, Paul, 31 

Dumas, Alexandra, 82 

Dunham, Catherine, 180 

Dtirer, Albrecht, 14-23, 25, 53, 123, 
150, 151, 152, 154, 155, 169, 170, 
183; 'Apocalypse*, 1 5 ; 'Crucifixion', 
22; 'Festival of the Rose Garlands', 
14; *Green Passion', 22; *The 
Knight, Death and the Devil', 17, 



194 



INDEX 



21 ; 'Little Passion', 14-15; Paum- 
gartner altarpiece, 17, 154; *St 
Jerome in his Study*, 18, 22; self- 
portrait, 18-21, 145; * Virgin at 
Prayer", 21 

Dtirer, Agnes, 15-16 

Duret, Theodore, 78 

Durlacher, 51 

Duval, Amaury, 81, 155 

Eeckhout, Gerbrand van den, 147 
Bible, 1 60 

Eigenberger, Josef, 104 
Eisenhower, President, 114 
Elsemrs Weekblad, 148 
Ernst, Max, 121 
Esquiline, 124 
Etruscan art, 36-37 
Eudel-Roessler, 151, 182, 191 

Faille, J. B. de la, 72-75, 77, 78, 183 

Falice, Andre, 42 

'False or True?* exhibition, 33, 105 

Fasoli, Alfredo, 61, 62, 157 

Fernkorn, 168 

Fey, Dietrich, 106-8, 111-13, 155 

Fiesole, Mino da, 27, 63, 64, 68 

Figaro, Le, 42 

Fischer, Johann Georg, 17, 154 

Fischer and Franke, 152 

Flinck, Govaert, 147 

Flora, bust of, xiv, 50-60, 152, 187 

Florence: Palazzo Riccardi, 31; 

Uffizi Gallery, 174, 187 
Foat, Dr, 9 
Foresi, Dr, 29 
Forster, Otto H., no 
fossils at Wiirzburg, 143 
*Four Countries Chest', 134 
Fradin, Emile, 7-10 
Fragonard, Jean Honor6, 81 
France, Anatole, 158 
Francia, 172-3 

Frankfurt, Stadel Institute, 186 
Frankfurter Zeitung > 74 
Freppa, Antonio, 26, 28, 30, 33, 34 
Friedlander, Max J., 23, 69, 152, 160, 

162, 164, 170, 189 



Fridt, 187 

Frimmel, Art ofPaintmg t 149 
Froschel, Daniel, 16 
furniture, 133-6, 158-9 
Furtwangler, Adolf, 40, 41, 46, 169, 
177 

Gachet, 78 

Gartner, Georg, 16 

Gauguin, 60, 87, 108, 150, 156, 169 

Gauthier, Maximilian, 85 

Ga%etta di Firetj%e y 28 

Gazette des Beaux Arts, 26 

Gelder, Aert de, 147 

Gerard, Marguerite, 81 

Gigli Campana collection, 32 

Giordano, Luca, 17 

Giorgione, 175 

Glaser, Curt, 170 

Gloanec, Mme, 156 

Glozel, 7-1 1, 161, 177 

Goethe, Wolfgang, xiv-xv, 113, 154, 

179; statuette of, 167-8 
Goetz, William, 78, 79 
Goldschmidt, Adolf, 55 
Goldschmidt, Ivan 74 
Gonon, 12-13 
Goring, Hermann, 90, 91, 95, 96, 97, 

100 

Goudstikker, 95, 96 
Goya, 150, 173 
Grabke, 107 
Gratiot, 84 
Gromaire, 183-4 
Gronan, Georg, 55 
Groot, Hofstede de, 102, 176 
Gross, Hans, 156 
Grosso, Rafael, 157 
Grosz, George, 121 
Griinewald, Matthias, 22-24 
Gruyter, Jos de, 77 
Guilbert, Yvette, 161 

Haack, Friedrich, 21 

Hague, Mauritshuis, 100 

Hals, Frans, 99, 102, 176, 177, 188 

Hamburg Art Gallery, 25 

Hanfstaengl, 92 



195 



INDEX 



Hastieiter, 93 

Hauser, Bernhard, 126, 131 

Herbst, Dr, 125, 129, 131 

Herculaneum, 123 

Hess, Rudolf, 94 

Hieronymus of Frankfurt, 1 5 

Hildebrandt, Edmund, 58, 59 

Hildesheirn silver, 124 

Hirsch, Jakob, 64, 65 

Hirschfeld, 107, 114 

Hitler, Adolf, 91, 92 

Hochman, Schapschelle, 38-41, 157 

Hodler, 108, 156, 183 

Hofer,Karl, 157 

Hoffmann, Hans, 16 

Hoffman, Heinrich, 92 

Holbein, Hans, the Younger, 24-25, 
150; * Jakob Meyer Madonna', 24 

Holland, Government of, 100 

Hornans, Gottfried, 98 

Hooch, Pieter de, 97, 99-* OI > 10 3 
150, 160, 169 

Hoogendijk, 99 

Hopfer, Hieronymus, 15 

Horace, xiii 

Houbraken, Arnold, 148 

Huisman, Georges, 12 

Hull, George 5-6 

Huyghe, Rene, 84 

Ikhnaton, King, palace of, 2 

ImbofT, 1 6, 23 

Immerzeel, 147 

infra-red photography, 173, 174 

Ingres, 81, 155 

Isabey, Eugene, 152 

Isnard, Guy, 23 

Jakobsen collection, 149 

Jandolo, Augusto, xii, xiv, 63, 65, 

69, 122, 134, i3J *4Q, *53 *5 8 > 

159, 163, 164, 167 
Jenniches, Jupp, 116-21, 145 
Jousseaune, Dr, 83 
Justi, Ludwig, 74, 189 

Kaempfen, M. A., 38 
Karstens, J. W., 154 



Kaufmann, 171 

Kertsch, tombs at, 40 

Kieseritsky, 41 

Kirchner, E. I., 117 

Klee, Paul, 116-21 

Klein, Woldemar, 88 

Knoteck, Hansi, 112 

Krex&piftt& 53 

Kroller-Miiller collection, 72, 75 

Kiiffner, Abraham Wolfgang, 18-21, 

145. X 55> l6 9 
Kusenberg, Karl, 164 

Lalique, 42 

Lancret, 158 

Lange, Kurt, Pyramids, Sphinxes and 

Pharaohs, i 
*Laocoon', 153 
Latour, Claude, Mme, 85 
Laurent, Anton, 187 
Lautner, Max, Who was Rembrandt?, 

186-7 
Leibl, 1 60 
LeNain, 81 
Leonardo da Vinci, 51, 52, 56-8, 60, 

174, 187-8; 'Mona Lisa', 187-9 
Lequesne, Eugene Louis, 28, 29 
Levin, Theodore, 186 
Lewenthal, Charles, 78 
Leyster, Judith, 188 
Liebermann, Max, 108, 178 
Lifschitz, 42 
Lille, Virgin of, 149 
Lisbon, Museum of Art, 173 
Lissitsky, 88 
Locard, Edmond, 161 
London, British Museum, 36, 38, 41, 

177; National Gallery, 80, 172, 

173 ; Victoria a nd Albert Museum, 

31, 32, 34,68, 134 
Long, 51 
Loth, 9 
Ltibeck, St Mary's Church, 106-14, 

155 
Liibke, Wilhelm, History of Sculpture, 

32 
Lucas, Albert Durer, 51, 52, 54, 55, 

59 
96 



INDEX 



Lucas, B. V., 59 

Lucas, Richard Cockle, 51-53, 55-60 
Lusetti, Walter, 70 
Luxor, forgers at, 1-2 
Lyons, Museum of Fine Arts, 35; 
Police laboratory, 9, 161 

Maasbode, De, 188 
Maes, Nicolas, 147 
Maggiolini, 135-6 
MaianOj Benedetto de, 27 
Mailfert, Andr6, A.H Pays des A.nti- 

quaires, 136 
Malaguzzi, Valeri, 58 
Malskat, Lothar, xiv, 87, 88, 106-15, 

145, 152, 155,167, 169,188 
Manet, 'Execution of Maximilian', 

*53 

Mantz, Paul, 26, 27 
Marisse, Jacques, 85 
Marks, Murray, 50 
Marsh, Professor, 5 
Martini, Simone, 63, 67, 68, 162 
Matin, Le, 42 
Matisse, 60, 108 
Max, Giran, 78 
Maximilian I, Elector of Bavaria, 

16-17, 2I 
Mayence, Elina 
Meder, 22 

Medici, Lorenzo de*, xiii 
Medici, Marie de*, 24 
Medici family, 146 
Meier-Graefe, 73, 74, 75 
Memling, 151, 170 
Mengs, 154 

Michaelangelo, xiii, 27, 146 
Michon, 41 
microscopic examination, 173, 175, 

i 7 6 

Miedt, Alois, 95 

Milan, Municipal Gallery, 180 

Millet, J. K, 84, 142 

Milo, Venus of, 27 

Modena, Nicoletto da, 1 5 

Monedero, Manuel, 157 

Monet, 183 

Montagna, Benedetta da, 15 



Montorsoli, 153 

Morlet, A., 8-10 

Mozart, 156 

mummies, 2 

Munch, Edvard, 108, 166 

Munich: Glyptothek, 153; Bavarian 

State collection, 25; Old Pinako- 

thek, 17, 19, 173 
Murer, 77-78 
Murillo, 173 
Musi, Agostino de, 1 5 

Nageborg-Malkine, Mme, 42 
Naples, 17, 122-4; Coroni Gallery, 

67; National Museum, 170 
Nazione, La, 29 
Neue Zeitung, 101 
Neufchatel, 149 
Newell, 4-6 
New York, Metropolitan Museum, 

22, 67, 79 
Nieuwekerke, Comte de, 27, 29, 33, 

161 

Nikopol, 40, 47 
Nineveh, xiii 
Nolde, Emil, 116-21 
Nolivos, M. de, 26-8 
Nuremberg, 18-19 

Odessa, 40 
Olbia, 38, 39, 41 
Orchendovsky, 21 
Ortschakov, forgers at, 40 
Oslo, Modern Art Gallery, 166 
Ost, 78 
Osthaus, 76 
Ozmella, 76 

Pak, 84 

Palesi, Ramano, 62, 64, 157 

Palmerston, Lord, 54 

paper, 18 

Paris: Biblioth&que Nationale, 44; 
Louvre, 27-30, 36-39, 41-43, 48-49* 
100, 173, 187-8; police laboratory, 

9, 10, &7 
Pasquin, 108 
Patel, 8 1 



I 97 



INDEX 



Pater, 158 

Patinir, Jaochim, 16 

Pairie* JLz, 28 

Paul!, Gustav, 54-56, 58, 190-91 

Pausias, xiii 

Pechstein, Max, 117, 118 

Petit, Georges, 82 

Petrides, Paul, 86, 184 

Petz, G. E., 19 

Phidias, xiii, 12, 155 

Picandet, Mile, 7 

Picasso, 85, 155, 158 

'pictology*, 172 

Pieter, Jan, 151 

'pillar-cupboards*, 153 

Pilles, Hemi, 41 

PinelH family, 37 

Pinson-Berthet, 86 

Pirckheimer, Willibald, 14 

Pisano, Giovanni, 65, 67, 68, 170 

Pisano, Nino, 63 

Pissarro, 78, 140 

Plastic Arts, 27 

police, 184 

Pollak, 153 

Pompeii, 17, 123, 170 

Poppelreuter, 187 

Porkay, Martin, xii 

Posse, Dr, 54 

Poussin, Nicolas, 80 

Praxitiles, xiii, 12 

Prange, School of Painting, 158 

Presse y 129 

prices, 159-60 

Protogenes, xiii 

provenance, 168 

Pyramids, xiv 

Rameses, statue of, 2-3 

Raphael, 44, 146; Sistine Madonna, 

187-9 

Ratzeburg cathedral, 108 
Rauch, 168 

Reidemeister, Leopold, 116 
Reinach, Eduard, 161 
Reinach, Salomon, 9 
Reinach, Theodore, 39-41 
reindeer, 8, u 



Reisinger, Hans, 127 

Rembrandt, 108, 146-7, 154, 159, 163, 
164, 174, 188 

Renoir, 60, 87, 88, 108, 152, 179 

Resendi, Romero, 157 

Rheinzabern, 171 

Rifesser, Beppi, 126-31, 152, 167 

Rochefort, Henry, 142 

Rodin, Auguste, 157, 179 

Rohrich, F. W., 25 

Romano, Giulio, 44 

Rome: Barberini Gallery, 16; Pal- 
azzo Doria, 80 ; Institute Restauro, 
173 

Rosenhagen, 74 

RosselHno, Antonio, 27, 31, 34 

Rothschild, Baron de, 38 

Rotterdam, Boymans Museum, 97, 

99 

Rousseau, Douanier, 85, 108, 156 
Rubens, Peter Paul, 91, 147, 148, 151, 

154, 189 

Ruchomovsky, Israel, 41-46, 98, 167 
Ruchomovsky, Jacob, 43 
Ruchomovsky, Solomon, 43 
Rudolf II, collection of, 16 
Ruprecht, 16 
Ruysdael, Jacob van, 154 

Sabatello, Dario, 179-80 

Saint Petersburg, 40; Hermitage 

Gallery, 41 
Saitaphernes, tiara of, xiv, 38-49, 

145, 152, 159, 169, 170, 177 
San Marco, monastery of, 3 1 
Sandrart, 15 
Savanarola, bust of, 3 1 
sarcophagus of Cerveteri; see Cerveteri 
Sarburgh, Bartholomaus, 24 
Savelli tomb, 64, 163, 168 
Schacht, Hjalmar, 91-94 
Schaufelein, Hans Leonhard, 15, 25 
Schauss, Martin, 56 
Scherjon, W., 77 
Schleswig cathedral, 90, 107, 108, 

112, 171-2 
Schleswig-Holstein County Museum, 

114 



198 



INDEX 



Schmidt-Rottluff, Karl, 117 
Schneider, 38 
Schottmtiller, Frieda, 57 
Schuppner, Robert, 116-21 
Scipio, shield of, 40, 44, 47 
Scrovegni Madonna, 67 
Settignano, Desiderio da, 27, 35 
Seville, Cubiles Gallery, 157 
Shaw, G. B., 179 
Shercliflf, Jose, 179 
Shibel, 1 88 

signatures, 18, 81, 159, 160, 163 
Sina, Baron, 168 
Sisley, Alfred, 88 
Snyders, Frans, 148, 189 
Soderman, Harry, On the Trail of 

Crime, 9 
Solis, Virgil, 15 
spectroscopy, 176 
Spitzweg, Karl, xiv, 91-93, 167 
splitting of paintings, 176 
Springer, Jaro, 22 
Stabiae, 123-4 
Stern, Professor, 40 
Stockholm Museum, 22, 156 
Strijbis, 99 
Stuck, Franz, 73 
Studnicka, Anna, 12 
style, 170-1, 177 
Suida, 58 
Szymanski, 38-9 

Talbot Rice, Tamara, 46 
Tamen necklace, 40 
Terborch, Gerard, 99 
Thannhauser, Matthieson and Gold- 

schmidt, 74 
Thausing, 15 
Thebes, 2 
Thiolier, Noel, 12 
Thorswaldsen, 153-4 
Thyssen collection, 102 
tiara of Saitaphernes; see Saita- 

phernes 

Times ', The, 51, 52 
Titian, 175 

titles, forgery of, 164-5 
Todous, Mohareb, i 



Tolfree, 54 

Tolstoy-Kondekof-Reinach, Anti- 
quites de la Russie Meridionals, 44 
Tomba, Casimiro, 167 
Toni, 93 
Torrini, 56 

Toulouse-Lautrec, 183 
Trapain Low, 124 
Triquetti, Baron de, 27 
Trouillebert, 82-83 
Troy, xiii 

Trussart Gallery, 163 
Tutankhamun, tomb of, 2 
Tuthmosis, i, 2 

Uhde, 85 
Uhlenbroch, 148 

ultra-violet photography, 173, 174 
Utrillo, Maurice, 85-7, 108, 155, 178, 
183, 184 

van Beuningen, 99, 100, 103, 104 

van Dantzig, 72, 172 

van der Vorm, W., 99, 100 

van der Weyden, 151 

van Dyck, 147, 148 

van Gogh, xiv, 71-79, 84, 148, 155, 
156, 169, 183, 187 

van Loo, 81 

van Meegeren, Han, xiv, 90, 95-106, 
121, 127, 141, 145, 150, 153, 155, 
158, 160-2, 167-72, 175, 184, 188 

van Noort, Adam, 189 

Vasari, 27 

vase-paintings, 40 

Vechietta, 63, 68 

Venturi, A., Storia delFarte Italiana, 
187 

Vermeer, Johannes, 90, 95-103, 171 

Vernon, 82 

Verrocchio, Andrea, 27, 49, 68 

Verwey, 101 

Vienna; Albettina Museum, 16; 
Dorotheum, 125-32; Imperial 
Court Museum, 38; Kunsthistor- 
isches Museum, 67; Vienna Gal- 
lery, 25 

Villefosse, E. Heron de, 38, 41, 42 



199 



INDEX 



violins, Dossena's, 62 

Vlaminck, Maurice, xi, 86, 87 

Vogel, Anton, 58, 39 

Voll, Karl, 187 

Vollard Ambroise, xi, 140, 153, 156, 

*57 164-5 

von Alt, Rudolf, 151 
von Blomberg, 93, 94, 159 
von Jenisen, Baron, bust of, 32, 34 
Vorot, 1 08 
Vorst Castle, 162 

Waagen, 22 

Wacker, Leonhard, 75, 76 

Wacker, Otto, 72-77, 84, 145, 148, 

I55> *57 167-9. l8 3 
Watoin, 81 
Wattcau, 1 08 
Wehlte, 76 
Weisser, Ludwig, Btlder-atlas %ur 

Weltgcschichte, 44 
Welt, Die, 108 
Weltkunst, 126 



Wesselovsky, Professor, 40 
Whitburn, Thomas, 54-55 
White, A. D., 5 
Wiedemann, Captain, 91, 92 
Wierix, Jan, 18 
Wilczek, Count, 38 
Winckelmann, 154 
Winkler, Friedrich, xv, 32, 59 
Winzinger, Franz, 20, 21 
Wolfflin, Heinrich, 21, 55 
worm-holes, 134, 158, 175, 176 
Wurtenberger, Thomas, Measures 
against Art "Forgery, 185 

X-rays, 2, 75, 76, 97-8, 104, 105, 109, 
173, 174, 175, 176 

Zenodorus, xiii 

Zezi de Montparnasse, 85 

Zinkgraf, 92 

Zorn, Anders, 156 

Zurich, Kunsthaus, 84 

Zwolle, gallery of archaeology, 2 



200 



(continued from front flap) 
great masters. Then there are the inno- 
cent bystanders whose works are mis- 
takenly attributed to someone else and 
their not-so-innocent opposites, the 
cynical pranksters determined to expose 
the smug pretensions of the experts. 

Schiiller ranges from the frequent and 
often " accepted " copying of the Renais- 
sance to the more famous scandals of the 
last half century, The high point is his 
discussion of that renowned and unholy 
trinity of Dossena, van Meegeren, and 
Lothar Malskat. During the i9zo j s the 
Italian Dossena acquired the title of 
" king of the forgers " for his " recrea- 
tions," inspired far more by his love of 
beauty than his love of cash, of Italian 
masterpieces, Van Meegeren's relative 
obscurity drove him to fantastic extremes 
in mastering the techniques of the past 
and producing, between 1937 and 1943, 
those fabulous " Vermeers " which still 
have the experts scratching their heads. In 
his eagerness to salvage German art 
treasures after World War II, Malskat was 
not satisfied with merely " restoring " 
medieval frescoes. Were these misguided 
artists or arch swindlers? The con- 
troversy still rages. 

Schuller carefully describes the artistic 
sleuthing which uncovered these im- 
posters of the art world, the study of tell- 
tale mannerisms, the analysis of paint and 
canvas, the use of X-rays. This book is 
invaluable as a work of reference for 
collectors and dealers as well as for any- 
one who appreciates fine works of art. 

Sepp Schuller, who is a distinguished 
German art critic and radio personality, 
has devoted many years to a special study 
of this fascinating branch of art history, 

Jacket designed by Jasper Blackall 

G. P. Putnam's Sons 
Publishers Since 1838 
210 Madison Avenue 
New York 16, N.Y. 



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